BY JORDAN MELNICK — MEDILL NEWS SERVICE
The flow of immigrants from Mexico into the United States has “declined sharply” in the last few years, according to a report released Wednesday by the Pew Hispanic Center. The trend has big implications for Chicago, of course, with its large Mexican population.
The number of immigrants crossing the Mexican border into the U.S. dropped from more than one million in 2006-07 to around 600,000 this year, the report says.
The 11.5 million Mexican-born immigrants in the U.S. today constitute the country’s largest immigrant population by far. But after growth earlier in the decade, it has increased by only 300,000 in the last three years and actually fallen by 100,000 since last year.
At the same time, the report cites “a large flow” of migrants back to Mexico, possibly due to economic conditions and the drying up of available jobs. Over the last three years, more than 1.3 million Mexicans have returned home from the U.S. at a steady clip.
“This is not really surprising considering the history of Mexican migration to the U.S.,” said Ruth Gomberg, who wrote a dissertation on undocumented Mexican migrants at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “It tends to be a labor history [that] tends to fluctuate with changes in the economy.”
The Pew report did not cite conclusive evidence that the economy is driving the trends.
The current recession has had a harsh impact on employment of Latino immigrants, raising the question of whether an increased number of Mexican-born residents are choosing to return home. This new Hispanic Center analysis finds no support for that hypothesis in government data from the United States or Mexico.
Increased militarization along the border and a rise in anti-immigration sentiment in the U.S. might also be factors, Gomberg said.