US could be high and dry as Mexican wave starts to ebb

WASHINGTON: A tidal wave of Mexican immigration to the US in the past four decades has receded, causing a historic shift in migration patterns as more Mexicans now leave the US for Mexico than the other way around, a report from the Pew Hispanic Centre shows.

It is the first reversal in the trend since the Depression, and experts say a declining Mexican birthrate and other factors may make it permanent. ''I think the massive boom in Mexican immigration is over and I don't think it will ever return to the numbers we saw in the 1990s and 2000s,'' said Douglas Massey, a professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University and co-director of the Mexican Migration Project, which has been gathering data on the subject for 30 years.

Nearly 1.4 million Mexicans moved from the US to Mexico between 2005 and 2010, double the number that came a decade earlier. The number of Mexicans who moved to the US during that period fell to less than half of the 3 million who came between 1995 and 2000.

This could have political consequences, underscoring the delicate dance by the major parties as they struggle with immigration policies and court the increasingly important Latino vote.

Illegal immigration has emerged as one of the most emotional political issues, one that dominated much of the Republican presidential contest and has proven complicated for the President, Barack Obama.

The reversal appears to be the result of tightened border controls, a weak US job and housing construction market, a rise in deportations and a decline in Mexican birthrates, said the study, which used US and Mexican census figures and Mexican government surveys. Arrests of immigrants entering illegally have also dropped precipitously.

The reversal could have significant implications for the US. It has 12 million Mexican immigrants, many of whom work in agriculture and construction. One in 10 people born in Mexico lives in the US, and more than half entered illegally. Most live in California and Texas.

Half of those returning to Mexico took their families, including more than 100,000 US-born children. Those children are citizens of both countries.

The Washington Post