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Apr 26 2012

Immigration From Mexico at a Standstill

As the Republicans compete with one another to see who can come up with the most draconian solution to the immigration problem — especially when it comes to Mexican immigrants; you never hear complaints about too many British, do you? — a new study by the Pew Hispanic Center finds that the problem is virtually non-existent.

A four-decade tidal wave of Mexican immigration to the United States has receded, causing a historic shift in migration patterns as more Mexicans appear to be leaving the United States for Mexico than the other way around, according to a report from the Pew Hispanic Center.

It looks to be the first reversal in the trend since the Depression, and experts say that a declining Mexican birthrate and other factors may make it permanent.

“I think the massive boom in Mexican immigration is over and I don’t think it will ever return to the numbers we saw in the 1990s and 2000s,” said Douglas Massey, a professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University and co-director of the Mexican Migration Project, which has been gathering data on the subject for 30 years.

Nearly 1.4 million Mexicans moved from the United States to Mexico between 2005 and 2010, double the number who did so a decade earlier. The number of Mexicans who moved to the United States during that period fell to less than half of the 3 million who came between 1995 and 2000.

The great political comedian Jimmy Tingle jokes years ago about why people get so upset about too many Mexicans coming to America: “It has nothing to do with taking our jobs. It’s because they’re short, dark-skinned Catholic people who reproduce at a faster rate than the people who work at the mall. If it was 10,000 Scandinavian women with their tubes tied, the Senate would be at the airport to welcome them here.”

But there’s more to it than that. What it’s really about is the right wing stoking the fires of fear and division for political gain. It’s political business as usual.

19 comments

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  1. 1
    Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

    you never hear complaints about too many British, do you?

    As a British (legal) immigrant to the US, I can tell you that I’m regularly reassured by well-meaning but clueless people that I’m not really an immigrant. After all, I work for a living! I speak English! I am pleasant and polite and hard working and tax-paying! So it’s not like I’m an immigrant immigrant.

  2. 2
    Artor

    The main cause of immigration from Mexico has been the economic opportunities up here. After years of clever campaigning, the reich-wing has managed to destroy all those opportunities, so there is no economic advantage to living in the US. Success!!!

  3. 3
    Randomfactor

    Blame Obama. Oh, wait…

  4. 4
    Randomfactor

    For what it’s worth, the only “illegal immigrant” I ever met taking an American job (who I KNEW was undocumented, as opposed to suspecting it)…was Canadian.

  5. 5
    Anthony K

    For what it’s worth, the only “illegal immigrant” I ever met taking an American job (who I KNEW was undocumented, as opposed to suspecting it)…was Canadian.

    We’re shifty like that, eh?

  6. 6
    emc2

    I’ve used that Tingle joke a few times myself. He had another one I like:

    People say ‘We can’t let those people in here, they’re only coming for economic reasons and not political reasons.’ Right. Like all of our ancestors who settled California to exercise thier right to vote. ‘Where you headed?’ ‘Californy.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Haven’t you heard? They found ballot boxes in the hills!’

  7. 7
    Crudely Wrott

    Is this an indication that the effects of natural changes in economics are a more potent force than politics? Further, is this an indication that things are likely to eventually balance out on their own if partisan knuckleheads would just stop throwing sugar in the gas tank? If they don’t?

    Inquiring minds probably already know.

  8. 8
    Deen

    If there ever was a sign that the US is no longer the land of opportunity…

  9. 9
    The Lorax

    They only get upset about Brits being here if they’re talented and outspoken, ie, John Lennon and Charlie Chaplin. ‘Cause Murrka knows what’s good for it, and getting rid of talent is the Murrkan way.

  10. 10
    Area Man

    For what it’s worth, the only “illegal immigrant” I ever met taking an American job (who I KNEW was undocumented, as opposed to suspecting it)…was Canadian.

    Yeah, same here. I warned him to stay away from Arizona, because they’re serious about turning in anyone who looks like an illegal immigrant, and this has nothing to do with one’s race, not at all.

  11. 11
    DaveL

    As a British (legal) immigrant to the US, I can tell you that I’m regularly reassured by well-meaning but clueless people that I’m not really an immigrant. After all, I work for a living! I speak English! I am pleasant and polite and hard working and tax-paying! So it’s not like I’m an immigrant immigrant.

    What, you didn’t get accused of taking a good job that should have gone to an American?

  12. 12
    harold

    As a dual US/Canadian citizen, I can’t help noting that many Americans are increasingly restricted in their ability to migrate.

    Even within the country, the most active economies are concentrated in certain coastal areas. Housing costs are locally high because of supply and demand. In the sixties, Cleveland had a pretty happening economy, and the cost of living in Cleveland versus the cost of living in, say, New York or Boston, was much more similar than it is now (mainly because it was cheaper in the latter). Unemployment statistics are not always as good an indicator. If there are very limited types opportunities, and vast numbers of people move away, a place can have low unemployment without actually offering much opportunity, and rich areas with entrenched, isolated disadvantaged communities can have higher unemployment rates than actual employment opportunities would suggest. On the other hand, many “red state” areas and formerly industrial midwestern states do have outright high unemployment.

    In the sixties, an American could migrate around the country rather freely, but today, for an unemployed American from a struggling area to relocate to one of the more vibrant areas would be difficult.

    Uneducated Americans are uniquely poorly suited to emigrate to other countries, as well. Putting aside the huge cultural barrier to doing so, where would they go? Canada has a tenth of the population and has gotten stringent about immigration from the US – they know that they can’t afford a deluge of unemployed Americans pouring across the border. Anyway, although Canada has better stabilizers (universal health care, less insane military budget, cheaper higher education, marginally better social services, marginally less extreme housing cost differentials), the Canadian economy is heavily dependent on the US economy.

    Ex-patriot US communities are mainly small collections of very elite people in expensive locales, or retirement communities in Latin America.

    For all the Republican racism of the past few years, American and Canadian society are amazingly tolerant and welcoming of immigrants. Even a bigoted English speaker will tend to make an effort to communicate with an immigrant who is learning English. This instinct is not universal; in many places people, however consciously well-meaning, simply do not have the tradition of tolerating someone who speaks the local language in an imperfect way.

    Americans have immensely and perhaps permanently damaged our own economy with more than thirty years of Reaganomics. And for many, it has been done so in a way that increasingly leaves them stuck in the midst of the damage, too.

    Incidentally, the number of people who “got what they deserved”, although surely in the millions, is not that great relative to the population. Many of the people most affected, including low income whites in most parts of the country, have not been a Republican demographic.

  13. 13
    Ben P

    I’ve read some interesting reports about how some change in mexico is driving this demographic shift as well.

    In some communities in Mexico the local economies were all but defunct because all the men (and a good chunk of the single women) came to the US to work. They would send money home to support relatives, and would come home for a month or two and live like they were on vacation, then return to the US and work.

    It led to a bizarre imbalance in the labor pool and not much of a local economy because no one cared about the local economy. That in turn led more people to decide migrant labor was the best option, which further reduced the local economy etc.

    I’ve read that since more people are staying home now, the local economy in some of these areas is flourishing, which in turn leads more people to believe they can do well if they stay home, which adds money etc.

  14. 14
    richardelguru

    Yup I was British and a registered alien (beep! beep!) for over 30 years over here (only citizen-izing last year) and never had anyone question my right to be here. Hell! I even got off a couple of speeding tickets because of my likeable accent!

    Oh! And as for the incomparable Charlie, I’ve even seen him claimed as a Great American in a couple of lists of such things. Irony of ironies.

  15. 15
    fifthdentist

    That’s a relief. I’d hate for Republicans to ruin their perfect
    record of only tackling problems that don’t actually exist.

  16. 16
    otrame

    They still don’t make it all that easy for British immigrants. When my son married a British woman they were told by an official it would take 6 months to a year to get her a green card and she would have to wait in Britain for it to come through. When they decided that he should go to school in Britain instead it took him two weeks to get a resident visa and a month to get a work permit. Of course Britain hasn’t had all the terrorist activity and….

    oh, wait…..

  17. 17
    Brain Hertz

    When my son married a British woman they were told by an official it would take 6 months to a year to get her a green card and she would have to wait in Britain for it to come through.

    And that’s the express process; it’s much faster to get a green card when it’s by reason of marriage. My green card took seven years…

  18. 18
    Pieter B, FCD

    I dropped a dime on an illegal immigrant here in Los Angeles once. He was Irish, and was trying to impress a young lady by bragging about how he’d come over on a student visa and never left, worked off-the-books jobs and so forth. The “charming rogue” gambit, don’t you know.

    I wasn’t going to do anything about it until he went on a rant about how L.A. would be a really great place if we “threw out all the fookin’ wetbacks.”

  19. 19
    usamamemon

    nice article.

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