News And Politics

End of an era: Net migration from Mexico to US halts

April 23, 2012, 4:46 p.m.

The U.S-Mexico border near Campo, California. A new Pew study says net migration from Mexico to the United States has come to a standstill after 40 years. (Credit: qbac07/Flickr Creative Commons)

After four decades and 12 million current Mexican immigrants – more than 6 million of them undocumented – the largest wave of U.S.-bound immigration from any single country in history has come to a halt.

So says a new report from the Pew Hispanic Center, which is based on analyses of government data sets from the U.S. and Mexico.

It found that the net migration flow from Mexico to the United States has stopped and maybe even reversed. There factors are many, according to the report: a weakened U.S. job and housing construction market, heightened border enforcement, a hike in the number of deportations, the dangers associated with crossing the border illegally, a decline in Mexican birth rates and shifts in the Mexican economy.

The long-term implications for a state like California and a city like Los Angeles are tremendous. A previous Pew Hispanic Center report found that California had the largest Latino population in 2010, with 14,014 Latinos residing in the state, making up 37.6 percent of the total population.

Los Angeles County alone was home to 4.7 million Latinos in 2010 – more than any other state with the exception of California and Texas.

Key findings from the new Pew report included the fact that between 2005 and 2010, 1.4 million Mexicans immigrated to the U.S. – and the same number of immigrants moved back to Mexico from the U.S., along with their U.S.-born kids.

Recent trends also mean that the U.S. is seeing the first significant decrease in at least 20 years in the number of undocumented Mexican immigrants living in the States – down from 7 million in 2007 to 6.1 million in 2011. Mexicans currently account for 58 percent of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. and 30 percent of all immigrants in the county.

Additionally, apprehensions at the border of Mexicans trying to cross illegally have gone down more than 70 percent from upwards of 1 million in 2005 to 286,000 in 2011. That's correlated with a sharp rise in funding of U.S. border enforcement, and has happened alongside a record-high number of deportations: 400,000 in 2010, with 73 percent of those being Mexicans.

That data's not going undisputed, though. Jeff Schwilk is the founder of the SoCal Patriot Coalition, which began in 2009. It was originally the San Diego Minutemen, which was also founded by Schwilk. Both border-watch activist groups are concerned with the same thing, he said: "border security, illegal immigration and constitutional rule of law."

"I know for a couple of years, they've been trying to say it's slowing way down," he said to OnCentral, "but last I heard, we're still talking half a million people coming over the border illegally."

He said if it is slowing down, he's "not seeing it" in San Diego County. "If anything, it's gotten a lot worse over the past few years," he added.

His colleagues in Arizona aren't seeing a decrease in numbers either, said Schwilk.

"My friends in Arizona … they're only seeing a slight trickle out," he said. "Nobody I know is seeing a mass exodus of presumably illegal immigrants. There's no reason for legal immigrants to leave – there's nothing for them to leave for."

"They can say whatever they want," he said, regarding Pew's report. "But if they don't back it up with hard proof, it rings hollow."

The report uses data from five Mexican government sources and four U.S. government sources, including the Mexico's Survey on Migration at the Northern Border of Mexico and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

It also says that in terms of absolute numbers, no country has ever sent as many immigrants to the U.S. as Mexico has in the past four decades. And although immigration is slowing, the number of U.S.-born Mexican-Americans is not.

More than half of South L.A. residents are Latino – 56.7 percent, according to the Los Angeles Times. L.A. City Councilwoman Jan Perry pointed out to OnCentral in March that the majority of her ninth district is Latino.

Back in 2000, just a year before Perry took office, the city census showed that, of the ninth district's 236,933 constituents, 92,225 were non-U.S. citizens (compared to 124,300 native-born citizens and 20,202 naturalized citizens).

City census data from that year also showed that 172,342 of the district's population was Latino.

The data for 2000 was the latest census data available on the City Planner's website, but another set of statistics did provide a more current estimate of the ninth's population from 2009: 257,900 people.

Photo by qbac07 via Flickr Creative Commons.

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