Undocumented in Los Angeles weigh immigration ruling

May Day activists demanding immigration reform march through downtown Los Angeles marking International Worker's Day on May 1, 2012 in Los Angeles, Calif. After the Supreme Court’s ruling on Arizona’s immigration laws, some undocumented workers say they would go to the state. Others would not.

Kai Ryssdal: The Department of Homeland Security figures about a quarter of all undocumented immigrants in the United States live in Los Angeles County. We figured the whole discussion that's going on in this country now -- about Arizona's law, sure, but similar laws in other states -- has affected immigrants decisions on where to live when they get here.

Marketplace's Jeff Tyler went to find out.


Jeff Tyler: Outside a Home Depot in downtown Los Angeles, a couple dozen Latino men look for work as day laborers. A guy who gives his name as Leopoldo arrived from Mexico without papers 15 days ago. I asked if the immigration laws in Arizona had any influence over where he decided to relocate.

Leopoldo: I don’t know anything about the immigration laws. I came here looking for work, because the life back in Mexico is very difficult.

Earning money is his primary motivation. He says he would risk going to Arizona if it meant getting a good job.

Leopoldo: Yes. If they have opportunities. If I could get permanent work there, yes.

Others I spoke with came to Los Angeles because they have relatives here.

Prospero: All my family is here.

“All my family is here,” says Prospero de Leon from Guatemala. He considers Arizona’s laws to be racist and said he wouldn’t go there, even if a job offered good pay.

For the most part, family connections and economic opportunity seem to drive migration patterns. Jeff Passel is senior demographer with the Pew Hispanic Center. He says says tougher laws have had an impact.

Jeff Passel: We know from a number of studies that the stepped-up enforcement along the south-western border has made it much more expensive to get smuggled into the United States.

And with fewer job opportunities during the recession, Passel says more and more Mexican migrants have decided it’s in their economic interest to stay home.

I’m Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeff Tyler is a reporter for Marketplace’s Los Angeles bureau, where he reports on issues related to immigration and Latin America.

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