border_fenceThe head of a Texas organization called Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together (MATT) has asserted that research by her organization and by Washington, DC’s Woodrow Wilson Center shows that, “the flow of Mexican immigrants into the United States has slowed to the point where more Mexican citizens are returning to Mexico today than are coming northward.” A Wilson Center source asserts, “Illegal migration from Mexico into the U.S. will continue, but we are actually seeing more migrants returning to Mexico than we see coming here.” (See San Antonio radio report here.)

They are both trying to bolster the view that the U.S. should no longer be concerned about the problem of illegal Mexican immigration.

But that view is contrary to 2009 research of the Pew Hispanic Center. “The current recession has had a harsh impact on employment of Latino immigrants, raising the question of whether an increased number of Mexican-born residents are choosing to return home. This new Hispanic Center analysis finds no support for that hypothesis in government data from the United States or Mexico.”  The Pew view is bolstered by the fact that even though the apprehension of Mexicans entering illegally was down during the recession, there still were 489,547 Mexicans  apprehended after entering illegally in 2011 (latest available DHS data). And the most recent official estimate indicates illegal immigration has increased.

Other official data belie the Wilson Center’s claim of a net outflow of Mexicans. The Center says “1.4 million Mexicans returned to Mexico between 2005 and 2010.” That would average 280,000 per year. That’s only a bit more than the 205,811 Mexicans removed (i.e. deported) in 2011. Let’s assume that the 74,000 difference between those numbers represents voluntary returns. That is many fewer Mexicans leaving than still coming to the U.S. with visas. The U.S. admitted 145, 316 Mexican immigrants in 2012 plus another 176,426 long-term nonimmigrants with visas (skilled workers, intra-company transfers and investors) which allow long-term residence in the country and possible permanent residence.

Clearly the issue of improved border security remains relevant to the issue of immigration reform. While illegal immigration of Mexicans has declined, it still continues to be by far the greatest border control problem, even as illegal immigration through Mexico by other nationalities has increased. The official data show that both legal and illegal immigration remain issues of concern as Congress grapples with immigration reform proposals.