The topic of immigration is inescapable in contemporary American politics. Political figures, news sources, late-night TV shows, other media outlets- it seems this topic is constantly being talked about. This coverage has created a flood of information about immigration in the United States, particularly about immigration from Mexico. But not all of this information is accurate. In the text below, eight facts about Mexican immigration are presented in an attempt to shed a light on this topic.
Eight Facts About Mexican Immigration
- Most unauthorized immigrants in the United States actually entered the country legally and have just overstayed their temporary visas. For the seventh year in a row, the number of people who have overstayed visas is far greater than the number who illegally crossed the Southern border. In addition, in 2017, undocumented immigrants from Mexico accounted for less than half of the undocumented population in the United States.
- Many immigrants crossing the United States’ Southern border are from Central America, not Mexico. The majority of the migrants from Central America come from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
- Immigrants from Mexico and Central America are typically fleeing poverty, violence and crime as approximately 44 percent of Mexicans, 60.9 percent of Hondurans, 59.3 percent of Guatemalans and 38.2 percent of Salvadorans live beneath the poverty line. El Salvador also has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Gang violence, drug trafficking and political corruption are prevalent in these nations.
- Mexican immigration into the United States has actually been declining since the mid-2000s, and so has the number of apprehensions at the Southern border.
- In the 2006 fiscal year, more than one million immigrants were apprehended at the Southern border. In the 2017 fiscal year, this number was 303,916. This decline in migration is a result of numerous factors. First, the decrease in labor demand in sectors that employ the majority of Mexican immigrants, such as construction, is a major contributor to this decline. With fewer jobs available, fewer Mexicans have immigrated to the U.S. and many have returned to Mexico. This decrease in jobs was in part due to the recession in the late 2000s. The second cause of decreasing emigration is the improvement in the Mexican economy. In the 1980s, Mexico was in a deep economic crisis, but since the late 1990s, the country has experienced economic stability and modest growth.
- Though the standard of living for most Mexican families has improved, a majority of Mexicans are not optimistic about the economy and the direction of the country. One-third of them would still migrate to the U.S.
- Demographic changes in Mexico’s population have also contributed to decreased emigration. Drastically declining fertility rates have decreased the number of people entering the workforce each year, leading to an increase in labor demand and wages. In addition, many Mexican immigrants are fathers searching for work to support their families. Lower birth rates have reduced the size of Mexican families, lessening the financial burden on parents and making it possible for fathers to support their families without emigrating to the U.S.
- The United States’ increased border enforcement in the past two decades has also lowered the Mexican immigration rate. U.S. Border Patrol funding has skyrocketed since 1992, which has enabled the agency to increase its staff by more than 400 percent. However, this increase in border enforcement predated the decline in migration by more than 10 years, suggesting that this is not the main cause of decreasing immigration.
Poverty, violence, crime and corruption are the root causes of immigration from Mexico and Central America into the United States. International cooperation to fund development and alleviate global poverty addresses these root causes and is key to reducing immigration. The United Nations stresses the importance of global cooperation in addressing international immigration and the Council of Foreign Relations asserts that large-scale migration can be managed only with a global governance framework.
With the increased life standard in Mexico and more opportunities in the country, Mexican immigration to the United States can be reduced in a less painful way. Reducing immigration is important not because immigration is inherently bad, but because people should not have to flee their homes to have a safe, financially stable life. They should have the opportunity to immigrate to another country if they choose, but should also be able to lead a safe, stable, prosperous life in their home country.
– Laura Turner