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Trickle of illegal immigrants, flood of misinformation
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Analysis

Trickle of illegal immigrants, flood of misinformation

  • The border fence in Nogales.
    longislandwins/FlickrThe border fence in Nogales.

What if we totally sealed the Mexican border and nobody came?

True, neither is likely to happen. But after billions of dollars and torrents of anti-illegal immigrant rhetoric, it’s looking like reality at the border may be moving on. Princeton Professor Douglas Massey, a specialist in Mexican migration, is only one among the experts who say the influx of illegal crossers into the U.S. has slowed to a trickle.

The reasons include the familiar ones — the U.S. recession and harsh anti-immigrant policies. But deeper and more powerful factors may also be at work. A recent New York Times article noted that the average Mexican fertility rate has shrunken to about 2 children per woman, down from 6.8 in 1970. Meanwhile, educational and employment opportunities have greatly expanded in Mexico. “Per capita gross domestic product and family income have each jumped more than 45 percent since 2000,” reports Damien Cave.

These fundamental economic and demographic factors bear close attention. A weak Mexican economy and a surplus of unemployed young people played major roles in promoting the massive influx of immigrants in the 1990s and 2000s. Their reversal could well have the opposite effect now. Add to that the rising cost and danger of sneaking across, and you have a recipe for a border crisis that’s passed — despite the unwillingness of some politicians to let go of a topic that lends itself so well to stirring fear and resentment among the home folks.

But politicians are by nature resourceful. Look for them to dismiss any talk of reduced illegal immigration as trickery employed by those simply seeking amnesty for the millions of undocumented people already here. And watch how the separate issues of illegal immigration, drug cross-border smuggling, and violence among northern Mexico drug cartels are increasingly blended together into one neat crisis-package that will never disappear and that can’t really even be measured. Reality may change, but politics apparently don’t have to.

Morrison Institute for Public Policy is a leader in examining critical Arizona and regional issues, and is a catalyst for public dialogue. An Arizona State University resource, Morrison Institute uses nonpartisan research and communication outreach to help improve the state's quality of life.

Bill Hart is a senior policy analyst at Morrison Institute for Public Policy.

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