Net Migration From Mexico: Zero

This news has not gotten nearly the attention it deserves (via the Christian Science Monitor):

While the loud immigration controversy of recent years – with walls erected and sheriffs planning anti-immigrant armies – got the headlines, the powerful migration shift went on largely unnoticed….

At the macroeconomic level, Douglas Massey, founder of the Mexican Migration Project at Princeton University, has documented what he calls “net zero” migration. The population of undocumented immigrants in the US fell from 12 million to approximately 11 million during the height of the financial crisis (2008-09), he says. And since then, Mexicans without documents aren’t migrating at rates to replace the loss, creating a net zero balance for the first time in 50 years.

Now you can argue back and forth all you want about why this has happened: the U.S. recession, relatively strong economic growth in Mexico, or the discouragement of immigration, legal and illegal, by the United States and the federal government.

But we should be able to agree that it’s time for anti-immigrant hysteria among conservatives to end. We’re not being overrun by undocumented workers and their families. We still have to figure out what to do with those who remain, and ask ourselves if cattle cars or “self-deportation” are superior to assimilation and an earned path to citizenship.

To those who say anti-immigrant animus isn’t the big deal in conservative politics that it used to be, I’d reply: tell that to Rick Perry, whose campaign succumbed to it, or Mitt Romney, who used it to dispose of what in retrospect may have been the most formidable challenge to his nomination.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.