The movement of northbound migrants, in decline for years, has fallen to the point where it is essentially offset by Mexicans returning home — leaving net migration at a virtual standstill, the Pew Hispanic Center reported Monday.
The center cited a mix of reasons for the migration dropoff, which demographers say could spell the end of the biggest immigration wave in U.S. history. The factors include economic recession in the United States that has dried up jobs, toughened border enforcement, increased deportations and declining Mexican birth rates.
A day later, speaking to a gathering hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, Calderon hailed the findings, saying his administration’s policies have played a key role in keeping Mexicans at home and prompting others to return.
“We are creating opportunities, job opportunities in Mexico, education opportunities for young people, health services and healthcare for the entire nation,” Calderon said, speaking in English.
Calderon acknowledged some Mexicans still think about leaving for the United States. “But the fact is there is a swing in terms of opportunity,” he said.
Migration experts in Mexico have scoffed at such assertions in the past, saying the condition of the U.S. economy has historically been the most important factor in speeding or slowing the flow of Mexican workers to the north.
Besides a shortage of the kind of jobs that traditionally have drawn Mexican laborers, migrants say the trip has become too risky. Tougher U.S. enforcement means it is harder and more expensive to sneak across, while bloodthirsty criminal gangs prey on migrants on the Mexican side of the border.
Migrants also cite an increasingly hostile environment in states that have passed strict immigration laws, such as the Arizona measure being reviewed Wednesday by the U.S. Supreme Court.
-- Ken Ellingwood
Photo: President Felipe Calderon addressed migration Tuesday during the U.S.-Mexico Leadership Initiative Business Summit, at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington. Credit: Michael Reynolds / EPA