By PlanetLaundry staff | Apr 24, 2012
The influx of Mexicans, which has dominated U.S. immigration patterns for four decades, began to tumble in 2006 and 2007 as the housing bust and recession created a dearth of jobs. At the same time, the number of Mexicans returning to their native country along with their U.S.-born children soared.
Stricter border enforcement, more deportations and tough state immigration laws also probably contributed to the shift, said Jeffrey Passel, lead author of the report. The study analyzed data from censuses and a variety of other sources in both countries.
"There was a suspicion that people were going back" but results of the Mexican census confirmed it, he noted. "They point to a fairly large number of people going back to Mexico."
From 2005 to 2010, 1.4 million Mexicans came to the U.S., which is down by more than half from the 3 million who came from 1995 to 2000. In turn, from 2005 to 2010, the number of Mexicans who moved from the U.S. to Mexico rose to 1.4 million, roughly double the number that had done so 10 years before.
Passel explained the data suggest that the return flow to Mexico probably surpassed the incoming flow in the last two years.
He attributed some of the changes to lower fertility rates in Mexico and improving social conditions there. According to the report, a growing percentage of illegal immigrants who are sent home say they won't return to the U.S. – 7 percent in 2005, versus 29 percent in 2010.
Will this reversal in Mexican migration continue when the U.S. economy rebounds? "We can't tell," Passel said.
"What it does tell us is that immigration is not the weather," said Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates controlling immigration. "It's not something that's outside the control of human agencies. It can change. People do, in fact, go home based on the economy and based on enforcement."
In a related item, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) recently proposed a bill that would allow young, undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. but would not let them become citizens. He called it a conservative alternative to the DREAM Act, a bill that would enable young people here illegally to become citizens if they attended college or joined the military.