Number of Illegal Immigrants Falls Nearly 1M Bad economy and tougher enforcement combine By Kevin Spak, Newser Staff Posted Feb 11, 2010 12:24 PM CST 47 comments Comments A US Border Patrol Agent checks a barbed wire fence that marks the the U.S.-Mexico border in this Aug. 6, 2009, file photo. (AP Photo/LM Otero) (Newser) – The number of illegal immigrants in the US plummeted again last year, dropping from 11.6 million to 10.8 million, says the Department of Homeland Security. That’s the second consecutive year it’s fallen, the LA Times reports, and the sharpest drop in at least 30 years. A Homeland Security spokesman said the decline is likely due to both to the “unprecedented resources” now employed to combat illegal immigration and the weak economy. Immigration hawks say the numbers prove that illegals will leave if staying isn’t economically advantageous, concluding that there's no reason to provide a path to citizenship. When “jobs dry up … illegal aliens react in a rational manner: They either will not come, or they’ll go home,” said one immigration control advocate. But groups friendly to immigrants argue that many illegals are well-settled and won’t leave so easily.