Via Meadia has long considered fears that America would be overrun by waves of immigrants from Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America to be overblown. As with previous waves, immigration from Mexico will peak and then begin to fall.Now a new report from the Pew Hispanic Center finds that over the past five years, immigration from Mexico has fallen to a net zero—migrants are returning to Mexico at the same rate that they are arriving in the U.S. Among the report’s findings:
- 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.
This is an important shift, but it’s still too soon to foresee an end to mass migration from Mexico. As the US economy improves, immigration is likely to pick up again. The recession was deepest in the construction industry, which hired a lot of unskilled immigrants, legal and illegal. It’s not surprising that many of these immigrants have chosen to return home, but as that industry returns, many of these immigrants will return with it.Nonetheless, those who think a fragile America is about to be overwhelmed by a human tsunami from Mexico need to take a deep breath and calm down. Yes, the US needs to control its borders, and yes, illegal immigration needs to be stopped. But in the medium to long term, Mexican immigration to the US is on a downward path.President Obama was probably not hoping to be remembered as the man who solved America’s immigration problem by creating such unfavorable economic conditions that the immigrants started going home, but there it is. At least for now, net immigration to the US from Mexico has slowed to a crawl.