When Is Our Southern Border Secure Enough?

The Republican position on immigration reform has always been that the U.S. must first secure our borders before we consider options for the 11 million undocumented people who are already in this country. Other than finding a way to hermetically seal it off, we are never going to reach total border security. So the question becomes…what is secure enough? I would propose that we’re pretty close right now.

Back in April 2012, Pew Research reported that net migration from Mexico to the U.S. had fallen to zero – and perhaps less.

The sharp downward trend in net migration from Mexico began about five years ago and has led to the first significant decrease in at least two decades in the unauthorized Mexican population.

This week, Pew Research reported that border apprehensions of Mexicans have fallen to historic lows.

The new Border Patrol apprehensions data reflect a broader ongoing shift in the U.S. unauthorized immigrant population that was shaped by a migration wave from Mexico that lasted from the 1980s until the Great Recession. Mexico remains the top country of origin for the nation’s unauthorized immigrants, but their numbers have declined since 2007, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.

(As this report explains, the uptick in non-Mexican apprehensions is in part due to the surge of unaccompanied Central American child migrants earlier in 2014)

Pew’s research suggests the following reasons for this dramatic change:

The standstill appears to be the result of many factors, including the weakened U.S. job and housing construction markets, heightened border enforcement, a rise in deportations, the growing dangers associated with illegal border crossings, the long-term decline in Mexico’s birth rates and broader economic conditions in Mexico.

The next time a Republican says that before we consider a pathway to citizenship for undocumented people in this country we need to secure our borders, an appropriate response would be…done that!

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.