Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Que es mas macho? The economy, demographics, and sensible border enforcement or reactionary Republican immigration policy

In the lead up to the presidential primaries, the Republican contenders engaged in a sorry nativist spectacle of playing «¿Qué es más macho?» with respect to immigration from Mexico. Republican legislators in Arizona, Alabama, and other states have also played a similar game with draconian anti-immigrant legislation.

Yesterday, the Pew Hispanic Center released a report on recent trends in Mexican immigration and their causes.
The largest wave of immigration in history from a single country to the United States has come to a standstill. After four decades that brought 12 million current immigrants—more than half of whom came illegally—the net migration flow from Mexico to the United States has stopped—and may have reversed, according to a new analysis by the Pew Hispanic Center of multiple government data sets from both countries.
You read that right, net migration in recent years from Mexico, legal and illegal, has fallen to zero.

The Pew Center study examined immigration through early 2010, the start of the economic recovery in the U.S. From 1995-2000, net migration from Mexico to the U.S. (the difference between in-migration and out-migration) was 2.3 million. From 2005-2010 however, net migration was just below zero, with 20,000 more Mexicans leaving the U.S. than entering.

The leveling off of immigration predates the most recent round of Republican chest-thumping. For example, Arizona passed its odious anti-immigration bill in April 2010 and didn't begin enforcing selected provisions until that summer. In essence, Republicans are falling all over themselves to shut the barn door several years after the horse escaped.

If the recent state legislation wasn't responsible for the immigration standstill, what was? The study provided some understandable and predictable U.S.-based explanations--the depressed employment situation in this country especially in the construction market, strengthened border security and enforcement, and an increase in deportations.

However, the also uncovered some other explanations that were Mexico-specific, including a slowing in that country's fertility rate and a general increase in its economic development. Regardless of conditions in the U.S., these Mexico-specific circumstances will continue to act as a brake on migration in the future.

To borrow from Laurie Anderson, ¿Qué es más macho? Una piña o republicanos reaccionarios?  

Una piña.