Here we are, going on about immigration in this country and the very folks we’re getting rowdy about have moved on? Really? We’re arguing about anti-immigrant laws, about how they target Latinos specifically, and about how because of that they affect all Latinos in the U.S. Meanwhile people from the country where most of the immigrants in question are from have decided it’s better to just stay home.
That turns the whole debate in its head.
The New York Times reports that undocumented immigration to the United States from Mexico is in a steep decline.
The extraordinary Mexican migration that delivered millions of illegal immigrants to the United States over the past 30 years has sputtered to a trickle, and research points to a surprising cause: unheralded changes in Mexico that have made staying home more attractive.
That changes everything, doesn’t it?
The entire anti-immigrant movement was predicated on a few hate filled and misguided ideas:
- Undocumented immigrants all come to the U.S. to take advantage of social services
- They take jobs from American citizens
- They are a drain on our economy
- Border enforcement and deportation are the only means to stop the undocumented
- There are more, but we’ll leave it at that.
Mexicans are just staying home.
The opposing ideas were that immigrants come to the U.S. to work, that they’re drawn by a combination of opportunity and necessity. But a startling thing was found when Mexico, where 6 out of every 10 undocumented persons come from, did its decennial census.
The Mexican census recently discovered four million more people in Mexico than had been projected, which officials attributed to a sharp decline in emigration.
American census figures analyzed by the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center also show that the illegal Mexican population in the United States has shrunk and that fewer than 100,000 illegal border-crossers and visa-violators from Mexico settled in the United States in 2010, down from about 525,000 annually from 2000 to 2004.
The Mexican immigration decline has coincided with a number of things. Yes, there are places in the United States where immigration laws have made it unbearably inhospitable for the undocumented, and border vigilance has increased dramatically along with border violence. But there’s always been an idea that says that the best way to counter undocumented immigration is to give immigrants a reason to stay home – they only come here because it’s where the jobs are.
Less kids, more jobs.
Here’s what’s happened:
- Fertility rates in Mexico have dropped from almost 7 children per family in 1970 to 2 children in 2010.
- Less people means more available jobs.
- Human smuggling prices increased from $700 in the late 1980s to nearly $2,000 going into the 2000’s.
- Educational attainment, an increase in earnings and political changes in Mexico are making the the risk of traveling to the U.S. less attractive.
Be careful of what you ask for.
This may not be the best news for the U.S. economy. There are important sectors in our economy that have been artificially buoyed by an undocumented workforce: agriculture and service (restaurants, cleaning, landscaping, construction) are the first that come to mind. The decline in undocumented immigration from Mexico will have an effect on everything from the price of your your Caesar Salad to the cost of your new three bedroom home.
But that doesn’t mean that Mexican are no longer coming to the U.S.
State Department figures show that Mexicans who have become American citizens have legally brought in 64 percent more immediate relatives, 220,500 from 2006 through 2010, compared with the figures for the previous five years. Tourist visas are also being granted at higher rates of around 89 percent, up from 67 percent, while American farmers have legally hired 75 percent more temporary workers since 2006.
The effects of this new trend have yet to be seen.
Follow Victor Landa on Twitter: @vlanda
[Photo by Daquella manera]