Opinion Brief

Exodus to Mexico: Is America's illegal immigration problem solved?

A new study finds that a four-decade wave of Mexican immigrants into the U.S. has receded. What does that mean for the hot-button immigration debate?

In a potentially historic shift, more Mexicans are now leaving the U.S. than entering, according to a Pew Hispanic Center study. The reversal appears to mark the end of a four-decade immigration wave that pushed the Mexican-born population in the U.S. to a peak of 12.6 million in 2007, before sliding back to 12 million since then. Pew listed a host of factors contributing to the trend, from falling Mexican birth rates to increased border control and deportations to a decline in jobs on this side of the border since the Great Recession. Does that mean that the hot-button issue of illegal immigration, which inspired tough state crackdowns now under review by the Supreme Court, is going away on its own?

Illegal immigration is no longer a big problem: The new statistics have exposed the lie in "right-wing warnings of an 'invasion' of illegal immigrants," says Ed Pilkington at Britain's Guardian. This should "take the wind out of the sails" of those insisting that Mexicans are sneaking into the country and "taking jobs away from unemployed Americans." But the trend is bad news for the U.S. economy. America will miss these immigrants when the economy turns around and the country needs a ready supply of immigrant labor to keep things humming."Mexican immigration falls for first time in four decades"

But we can't suddenly go soft on immigration: The slowing flow of illegal immigrants "does not end the problem," says Don Surber at the Charleston, W.V., Daily Mail. America is still home to millions of criminals, many of whom illegally entered the U.S. from Mexico. We need to continue getting tough, with deportations in some cases, prison in others, and fines for people who hire illegal immigrants. Most importantly, "America must seal and protect her borders" to make sure another wave doesn't come crashing in."Lock the door behind them"

If anything, this proves amnesty isn't necessary: So much for the idea that it's cruel to uproot illegal immigrants and send them home, says Mark Krikorian at National Review. Sure, some Mexicans have been deported, but most "who've left have done so on their own." And they've taken 100,000 American-born children with them. "In other words, attrition works." Really, "why not wait and see how much more the illegal population can be reduced through attrition before we surrender and declare amnesty?""Attrition works — so why do we need amnesty?"

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