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The Indian illegal immigrant

February 21, 2008 |  9:32 am

Outsourcing_2 The San Jose Mercury News notes that the fastest growing group of illegal immigrants comes not from a Spanish-speaking country but rather from India. A recent report [pdf] from the Department of Homeland Security shows that their numbers jumped 125% since 2000, up to 270,000 (though the Merc cites Pew Hispanic Center's Jeffrey S. Passel putting the number closer to 400,000). By comparison the numbers from Mexico, the country from which most illegal immigrants originate, rose 37% to 6.6 million.

The Indian number may be small and out of the public eye (at least until, say, a particularly heart-wrenching deportation story, or until tech workers start standing around office parks hawking consulting services), but these growth trends are likely to continue as long as there's no immigration reform. Without easier H1-B visa and green card access, more Indians will let their visas lapse and become illegal immigrants. And bigger border walls will keep more Mexicans home.

Without reform and with the downtrending economy, nativists and the economic isolationists may have to duke it out. What's worse, the Indian illegal immigrant or the Indian outsourced job holder? If outsourcing's your bogeyman, time to enact that immigration reform and fix H1-B visa laws. If it's immigrants you fear, keep on outsourcing, and fewer and fewer Indians will want to move here as their standard of living improves and job opportunities rise. And if you hate both? Better start finding Americans who can and will work tech jobs for fewer dollars. A lot fewer.

*Photo of a Hewlett-Packard employee in Bangalore, courtesy Associated Press.

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