As the Obama administration deports record numbers of immigrants (400,000 last year) and the Supreme Court considers whether Arizona’s tough law aimed at illegal immigrants is constitutional, the supposed crisis that such policies are meant to solve is going away on its own. Fewer illegal immigrants are coming to America these days.
Douglas Massey, who runs Princeton University’s Mexican Migration Project, reports that in the wake of the recession, net illegal migration from Mexico has reached zero. The number of illegal immigrants living in the United States dropped from 12 million to 11 million or so toward the end of the last decade, and no new influx has followed.
What’s more, Massey argues, the number of illegal immigrants within our borders probably would be lower if we had a less strict border control regime. The traditional pattern was for Mexicans to come and work, then return to home and family. But when getting back into the United States became much more difficult, workers tended to stay put. Massey estimates that if we weren’t spending nearly $12 billion a year on border enforcement, those natural patterns of return would mean 2 million fewer illegal immigrants living north of the border.