RSS
Is Mexico's 'secret economic boom' killing illegal immigration?
New research suggests incomes and quality of life are improving south of the border — discouraging Mexicans from illegally sneaking into the U.S.
 
As Mexico's economy begins to flourish, that arduous trek across the border has apparently become less enticing.
As Mexico's economy begins to flourish, that arduous trek across the border has apparently become less enticing.
Bob Daemmrich/Corbis

Illegal immigration may be a thriving political topic, but as a cross-border migration trend, it has "sputtered to a trickle," at least from Mexico, reports Damien Cave in The New York Times. And a growing body of research points to a surprising reason why: Income, employment prospects, and life in general is getting better in Mexico, making the arduous trek north less appealing. Officially, Mexico's per capita GDP has grown a sluggish 10 percent since 2000, notes economist Dean Baker. But has a "secret economic boom" ended the 30-year flow of Mexican migrants to El Norte?

There's nothing secret about this boom: Of course Mexico is an increasingly better place to live, says Matthew Yglesias at ThinkProgress. It isn't rich or particularly well-run, but thanks to its transition away from authoritarianism, and the superior access Mexican companies have to the lucrative U.S. market, Mexico is clearly "richer and better-governed than it was 20 years ago so people are less inclined to leave." The only surprise is that "these realities have tended to escape the debate in the United States."
"Improving living standards in Mexico driving reduction..."

But the economy is just one factor: There are many reasons why the illegal immigrant "population in America is pretty much stagnant," says Moe Lane at his blog. Sure, life is better than it used to be in Mexico, but Mexicans are also staying put because their families are smaller, legal visas are easier to get, and "skyrocketing narco-terrorist-related activity" is making the border more dangerous. And that last reason is why we still have to "build that damned fence," pronto.
"Illegal immigration down?"

This lull in immigration is a golden opportunity: "Increased surveillance and fencing" is actually another cause for the drop in border-crossing, says Joe Klein at TIME. And the U.S. economic slump has helped Mexico's expanding opportunities look even better, too. But whatever the reasons illegal immigration has "fallen off a cliff," it is "lovely news." If we were smart about it, we'd use this "relative stasis" to finally reform our troubled immigration laws.
"But who will tend our gardens?"

 

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week