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Mexican immigration to U.S. stalls; cause is debated

Migrants thread their way along footpaths just north of the Mexico-Arizona border in 2007

There is much debate over the cause for a drop in immigration from Mexico to the United States.

Mexican immigration to U.S. stalls Amid an economic downturn and increased enforcement at the U.S.-Mexico border, the number of Mexicans coming to the United States dropped significantly, while the number of those returning home increased sharply over the last several years, according to a report by the Pew Hispanic Center.

Advocates against illegal immigration said the report confirms that stricter enforcement combined with tougher job prospects work to curtail illegal immigration.

"If you dry up the job magnet because of the bad economy or increased work-site enforcement, you reduce illegal immigration," said Bob Dane, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates for restricted immigration.

The federal government needs to continue to crack down on illegal immigration, regardless of the report's conclusions, Dane said.

"The fact remains there's still 7 million illegal aliens occupying jobs that should go to American citizens," he said. "It's nowhere near mission accomplished."

Jessica Dominguez, a Los Angeles-based immigration attorney, said increasing numbers of deportees who have families in the U.S. are not returning because the trip is more dangerous and the consequences of being caught are more severe.

"Some people are staying away until they can come back legally," Dominguez said. "They don't want to be exposed to being detained again and losing the opportunity to come back legally later. The laws are very strict at this point."

Between 2005 and 2010, 1.4-million Mexicans immigrated to the United States, less than half the number that migrated from 1995 to 2000. At the same time, the number of Mexicans and their children who moved to Mexico in the same five-year period rose to 1.4 million, about double the number that did so from 1995 to 2000.

The estimates are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and on Mexican census data. The most recent data indicate that the historic flow of migrants into the U.S. might even have started to reverse.

"We're fairly confident that by the end of the period we were seeing more people moving to Mexico than leaving" for the United States, said co-author Jeffrey S. Passel, a senior demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center.

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— Paloma Esquivel and Hector Becerra

Photo: Migrants thread their way along footpaths just north of the Mexico-Arizona border in 2007. A new report says immigration from Mexico has come to a statistical standstill. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

 
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