As election season nears, immigration will undoubtedly be cast into the national spotlight as a hot-button campaign issue for many candidates. But as public officials make broad statements about U.S. immigration policy — widely acknowledged to be a broken system — a new study shows that the reality of immigration may be far different from what the political rhetoric implies.
A new study from the Pew Hispanic Center and the RAND Corporation focusing on Mexican migration patterns into the U.S. (pdf) shows that immigration from Mexico has waned in recent years, and that fewer Mexicans are leaving for the U.S. “The number of Mexicans annually leaving Mexico for the U.S. declined from more than one million in 2006 to 404,000 in 2010 – a 60% reduction,” the report states.
However, while Mexican immigration to the U.S. declined over the past decade, the study also shows that the Mexican-American population grew rapidly. From 2000 to 2010, births increased the Mexican-American population by 7.2 million, while immigration increased it by 4.2 million. The decade marked a turnaround from the previous two decades, when the number of new immigrants outpaced the number of births in the Mexican-American community.
What’s the impetus for such a shift? The report explains:
On the U.S. side, declining job opportunities and increased border enforcement may have made the U.S. less attractive to potential Mexican immigrants. And in Mexico, recent strong economic growth may have reduced the “push” factors that often lead Mexicans to emigrate to the U.S.
Although the report focuses on all immigration from Mexico, the data has implications for undocumented immigrants in particular. More than half of Mexican immigrants in the U.S. are undocumented, the data notes, and the majority of all undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are from Mexico. However, the Immigration Policy Center, a DC-based research group, states that these new trends indicate that “immigrants from Mexico are parents to a new generation of Mexican-Americans who are U.S. citizens.” They also conclude that the deportation-centric approach favored by U.S. immigration policy may be a poor fit for the kind of immigration patterns currently in place.