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More Mexicans May Be Leaving Than Coming To US

Mexican immigration to the United States has slowed dramatically and may be on the brink of an historic reversal in which more Mexicans may be returning home than coming here.

According to a new Pew Hispanic Center report, analysis of both US and Mexican government data shows that “the largest wave of immigration in history from a single country to the United States has come to a standstill.”

“After four decades that brought 12 million current immigrants—more than half of whom came illegally—the net migration flow from Mexico to the United States has stopped—and may have reversed,” the report says.

“The standstill appears to be the result of many factors, including the weakened U.S. job and housing construction markets, heightened border enforcement, a rise in deportations, the growing dangers associated with illegal border crossings, the long-term decline in Mexico’s birth rates and changing economic conditions in Mexico.”

Among the report’s key conclusions:

  • In the five-year period from 2005 to 2010, about 1.4 million Mexicans immigrated to the United States and about 1.4 million Mexican immigrants and their U.S.-born children moved from the United States to Mexico.
  • In the five-year period a decade earlier (1995 to 2000), about 3 million Mexicans had immigrated to the U.S. and fewer than 700,000 Mexicans and their U.S. born-children had moved from the U.S. to Mexico.
  • This sharp downward trend in net migration has led to the first significant decrease in at least two decades in the number of unauthorized Mexican immigrants living in the U.S.—to 6.1 million in 2011, down from a peak of nearly 7 million in 2007. Over the same period the number of authorized Mexican immigrants rose modestly, from 5.6 million in 2007 to 5.8 million in 2011.
  • Mexicans now comprise about 58% of the unauthorized immigrants living in the United States. They also account for 30% of all U.S. immigrants. The next largest country of origin for U.S. immigrants, China, accounts for just 5% of the nation’s stock of nearly 40 million immigrants.
  • Apprehensions of Mexicans trying to cross the border illegally have plummeted by more than 70% in recent years, from more than 1 million in 2005 to 286,000 in 2011—a likely indication that fewer unauthorized immigrants are trying to cross. This decline has occurred at a time when funding in the U.S. for border enforcement—including more agents and more fencing—has risen sharply.
  • As apprehensions at the border have declined, deportations of unauthorized Mexican immigrants—some of them picked up at work or after being arrested for other criminal violations—have risen to record levels. In 2010, nearly 400,000 unauthorized immigrants—73% of them Mexicans—were deported by U.S. authorities.
  • Although most unauthorized Mexican immigrants sent home by U.S. authorities say they plan to try to return, a growing share say they will not try to come back to the U.S. According to a survey by Mexican authorities of repatriated immigrants, 20% of labor migrants in 2010 said they would not return, compared with just 7% in 2005.
  • Looking back over the entire span of U.S. history, no country has ever sent as many immigrants to this country as Mexico has in the past four decades. However, when measured not in absolute numbers but as a share of the immigrant population at the time, immigration waves from Germany and Ireland in the late 19th century equaled or exceeded the modern wave from Mexico.

To read the entire Pew report, click here.

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2 Comments

  1. Shane KehoeMay 14, 2012 at 9:54 pmReply

    One additional aspect to speak of which I did not see listed as a factor considered in the report conclusions is:

    A large percentage of immigrants, from all countries and not just Mexico, may have only come to the U.S.A. for employment opportunities and not because they ever really desired/wanted to leave their homelands’ in the first place. I believe some people immigrate to the US solely to work, to earn, and to save US dollars, while never embracing the US as their “home”. This type of immigrant/persons would have always retained their “true home” country residency (aka citizenship and passports, if they have one) with the very idea that they do not want or desire to ever be Americans or to ever become American Citizens. Their children who were born in the USA or spent the majority of their young childhood in the USA, yes, most likely consider themselves XXXX-Americans and may never return or leave the US ever. However, some of the 1st generation immigrants I believe more so may have never considered the US their home nor planned to stay forever. Their end plan or desired result may have always been solely to earn and save the higher value USD for retirement and then to return home “more wealthy” so to speak upon retirement age when their USDs will strongly convert back to their true home country’s functional currency. Even in 2012 when the USD overall is nowhere close to the 80’s or 90’s level of Fx strengths. In other words, for any number of reasons they just came to take advantage of or to seek the work opportunities with no intent of ever staying forever. People who arrived 30 years+ ago may now be reaching retirement age and thus would begin the reverse trend in the figures where immigrants are now leaving the US, causing an appearance in overall figures that immigration levels are flattening or reversing. It could be that the older generations are returning “home” to retire where their hearts have always been and where they wished they could have remained, if there had been ample work opportunity locally or decent safety & security if where their from was perceived dangerous to raise a family at the time they made the decision to leave. This aspect could distort or skew the overall statistical numbers and cause an appearance that immigrants no longer wish to work in the US.

    On the other side, a lot of these retirees would also choose to stay in the US if their children and grandchildren have all made the USA their permanent home. Grandparents often would choose to stay close their grand-babies, la familia, no matter what country they originate.

    Note: I’m speculating on this idea b/c I have no actual and factual statistics to support this thought. I’d be interested to see the age demographics of the people who are returning to Mexico dissected out of these statistics.

    Note 2: Additionally, what effect has the beefed up border security had, which became more of a prime political focus following the 9/11 attacks in NYC. This additional scrutiny may have also assisted to curb overall immigration figures considered in the report.

  2. SpenglerMay 20, 2012 at 4:22 amReply

    Best thing Ive read in years!

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