How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Illegal immigration from Mexico is down, but legal immigration isn't

Photo by Nathan Gibbs/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A family looks north into the United States from Playas de Tijuana, January 2009

Photo by Nathan Gibbs/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A family looks north into the United States from Playas de Tijuana, January 2009


In a short piece in The Atlantic today, Council on Foreign Relations fellow Shannon K. O'Neill points out that as net migration to the U.S. from Mexico has dropped sharply in recent years, there's an interesting wrinkle to the northbound migration that continues.

While illegal immigration from Mexico to the U.S. has decreased, legal immigration from Mexico is holding steady. And compared with the level of unauthorized vs. authorized migration from Mexico a decade ago, the percentage of those coming legally is way up. O'Neill writes:

Another migratory change has also occurred: of the Mexicans that still come to the United States, many more do so legally. At the start of the twenty-first century, less than 10 percent came with papers. A decade later, it is 50 percent.

What the piece links to is a lengthy U.S. State Department

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Net migration from Mexico has stopped - now what?

Source: Pew Hispanic Center


The largest wave of migration to the United States from any single country in the nation's history appears to be over. For now, at least.

Today, the Pew Hispanic Center released a report that puts together years of U.S. and Mexican data and corroborates earlier news reports that Mexican immigrants aren't only coming to the United States in far lesser numbers, but that some are leaving, too. And that together, these two trends have brought overall Mexican migration to the U.S. to a net standstill. From the report:

The net standstill in Mexican-U.S. migration flows is the result of two opposite trend lines that have converged in recent years. During the five-year period from 2005 to 2010, a total of 1.4 million Mexicans immigrated to the United States, down by more than half from the 3 million who had done so in the five- year period of 1995 to 2000.

Meantime, the number of Mexicans and their children who moved from the U.S. to Mexico between 2005 and 2010 rose to 1.4 million, roughly double the number who had done so in the five- year period a decade before.

While it is not possible to say so with certainty, the trend lines within this latest five-year period suggest that return flow to Mexico probably exceeded the inflow from Mexico during the past year or two.

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Illegal immigration is down, so why do we keep talking like it isn't?

Photo by The Pope/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A new stretch of border fence, February 2009

A new Gallup poll shows that nearly two out of every three Americans is "dissatisfied with the level of immigration into the country," and that 42 percent want it to decrease. And yet it already has.

The poll results come a little more than a month after Homeland Security officials announced that the arrests of undocumented immigrants caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally have dipped to a historic low, a level not seen since the early 1970s.

And while the stats recorded by the U.S. Border Patrol aren't perfect, combined with other research, they point to illegal immigration now being down to a mere trickle. In 2000, the agency apprehended 1.6 million people at the border; only 327,577 were caught in fiscal year 2011.

So what gives? The Gallup poll, the results of which were released yesterday, doesn't distinguish between legal and illegal immigration, but chances are it's the latter that respondents continue to be upset about. From the poll results:

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