Huffpost Politics
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Kristian Ramos Headshot

The Flow of Undocumented Migrants Entering The U.S. Has Nearly Stopped, But Not for the Reasons You May Think

Posted: Updated:
IMMIGRATION DECLINES

Illegal Migration into the United States has all but stopped, and not entirely for the reasons you may think. It is not just because the United States has put unprecedented levels of resources along the border, but, and this may come as a shock to some, mostly because Mexico's economy is improving.

One of the general arguments as to why there are so many undocumented immigrants in America is that Mexico is a developing nation and the lure of jobs is too hard for migrants from all over Latin America to resist.

None other than George Will, conservative writer made just this argument the other day. His full quote was, and this I believe is a fairly standard talking point for the GOP these days: "It's very different when you are the only developed nation in the world with a 2,000-mile border with a developing nation." Very broadly he was arguing that the lure of jobs has been the reason that immigrants have come to our country for generations.

George Will is a really smart guy, and his statement is partly correct, migrants have been coming to the U.S. to work for a long time, but he is dead wrong when he calls Mexico a developing nation.

According to Census data, Mexico is currently the United States' third largest trading partner. Last year the United States did more trade with Mexico then it did with Great Britain, France and Germany combined.

Additionally, according to prominent economist Robert Newell the per-capita gross domestic product and family income have each jumped more than 45 percent since 2000. Which is to say that Mexico's economy is doing better than it has in a long time, which ultimately has led to the decline in illegal crossings of migrants.

The common Republican refrain for why they cannot move forward on a comprehensive solution to our broken immigration system is that the border must be secured to stop migrants from coming to America and stealing jobs from legal citizens. If illegal migration into the United States has nearly stopped, then this argument simply no longer holds.

Yet, the GOP continues to use the border and the jobs argument to not come to the table on broader immigration reforms. Majority Leader of the House John Boehner was recently asked about whether or not he would support administrative relief for DREAM Act students, he said: "We really can't deal with other issues until it (the border) is secure. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith is equally guilty of this, as he loves to say that the border must be secured to stop migrants from coming and taking American jobs.

There is just one problem with this conflation: Illegal migration to the United States has all but stopped in recent years. As Mexico's economy has improved, the willingness to pay large fees to cross the desert in 125 degree heat to work in an underground economy with no rights and doing back-breaking work for little pay has actually dropped. Who would have thought?

A recent New York Times article by Damien Cave shows that there is in fact: "A growing body of evidence suggests that a mix of developments -- expanding economic and educational opportunities, rising border crime and shrinking families -- are suppressing illegal traffic as much as economic slowdowns or immigrant crackdowns in the United States."

According to experts at Princeton's Mexican Migrant Project: "...research showed that interest in heading to the United States for the first time had fallen to its lowest level since at least the 1950s. "No one wants to hear it, but the flow has already stopped," Mr. Massey said, referring to illegal traffic. "For the first time in 60 years, the net traffic has gone to zero and is probably a little bit negative."

As it turns out, Mexico is not a failed state, the great American job magnet is no longer as lucrative as it once was, and the National Guard Troops and unprecedented numbers of Border Patrol agents along the border are actually acting as a deterrent to illegal migration along our borders.

One would think that the House GOP would be happy. When the Democrats where in power in Congress, literally the only immigration legislation the Republicans would play ball on was those that sent resources to secure the border. Which is to say that Democrats have done their part, the border is safer, and illegal migration has in fact dropped to next to nothing. If the House GOP wants to claim victory on this, all the better since maybe then we could get on with something other than enforcement only immigration legislation and hopefully lay to rest the idea that Mexico is a failed state and that the border is porous.

Around the Web

BEYOND THE BORDER - Immigration Issues | PBS

Illegal immigration from Mexico continues decline - SignOnSanDiego.com

Mexican Immigration | Mexico migrants: Mexico immigration agency ...