In what may be another sign of the economy rebounding, a new study reports that immigrants from Mexico into the U.S. this year have outnumbered those leaving for the first time since the start of the worst recession since the Great Depression.
Coming less than two weeks before the Nov. 6 election, the news could play a role in the presidential race and some state ballot measures where both the economy and illegal immigration have been major issues.
“The recession-induced decline of undocumented migration from Mexico appears to have stopped in the first half of 2012 amid tentative signs of a renewed northbound flow,” reports the study by Mexico’s Colegio de la Frontera Norte and the University of California’s Tomas Rivera Policy Institute.
“Economic conditions in the United States have been, and remain, the primary determinants of the size of Mexican migration flows.”
Illegal immigration study shows correlation with economy
The number of Mexican-born residents in the United States appears to have stabilized at about 11.7 million and could grow slightly by the end of this year, according to the report titled The Mexican Migration Monitor.
“The available data for migration trends in 2012 suggest that the size of that (illegal immigration) population might show a small increase across the entire year unless the U.S. economy flattens or declines in the third and fourth quarters.”
As in the past, the study said, stronger enforcement of federal immigration laws and state measures such as Arizona’s controversial SB 1070 do not appear to have had much impact in forcing illegal immigrants in the United States to leave.
“Despite evidence of growing psychological effects on the migrants who are removed,” the report said, “the available data suggest that these efforts have failed to have substantial, ongoing effects on the size of the Mexican migrant population.
“Neither the border survey nor the other indicators examined here offers any evidence that those efforts have had any effect on the number of Mexican migrants leaving the country.
“On the contrary, fewer Mexican migrants have left the United States since those enforcement efforts went into effect.”
The study was based on surveys at U.S.-Mexican border crossings, bus stations and airports, and on deportation, repatriation and demographics data.
In 2006, at the height of illegal immigration, eight of 10 Mexicans entering the U.S. were doing so illegally, the report said. That dropped to less than half after the economic downturn.
But today, the study reported, about 60 percent of those crossing into the U.S. are doing so illegally.
The new study comes six months after a Pew Hispanic Center report that for the first time in decades, more people were moving from the U.S. to Mexico than were coming to the U.S. from Mexico.
Such movement home by illegal immigrants has historically been typical during hard economic times in the U.S.