Flow of illegal immigration slowing down

Freedom New Mexico

Public opinion polls continue to show that strong majorities of Americans want their elected officials to crack down on illegal immigration. Furthermore, states are pushing ahead various proposals — such as requiring employers to use an E-Verify system to assure that workers they hire are in the United States legally. Yet a new study suggests that the illegal immigration situation continues to subside based on changing cultural attitudes in Mexico and a stagnant economy in the United States.

Echoing results from Princeton University’s Mexican Migration Project, the New York Times reports that “[t]he extraordinary Mexican migration that delivered millions of illegal immigrants to the United States over the past 30 years has sputtered to a trickle.”

You’d never know it from the contentious debate in the public and in the halls of Congress. Maybe the immigration situation is fixing itself or at least we see it’s not quite the dire problem depicted by anti-illegal-immigration activists.

The Princeton project, which monitors attitudes within Mexico, points to some surprising changes. For starters, birth rates in Mexico have been declining significantly as the power of the Roman Catholic Church subsides, thus producing fewer young workers to head northward. As the article points out, the average birthrate has fallen in about 40 years from 6.8 children per Mexican woman to about 2 children today.

But even more striking: “Educational and employment opportunities have greatly expanded in Mexico,” according to the Times. Family income is up, and many Mexicans simply don’t view a trip to the United States as the only route to earning a living. Other factors play a role, such as the increase in drug cartel violence, thus making the trip to the United States more dangerous. In addition, researchers note that some laws have made it easier for Mexican nationals to move here legally, which has lessened pressure for illegal journeys. That has always been our preferred solution.

We understand many of the concerns made about illegal immigration, particularly the burden on the welfare state. But most people come here mainly to work, although they impose costs on the health care, legal and educational systems, in particular.

But the welfare state should be scaled back, which is an American public policy problem more than an immigration problem.

We’ve been more concerned about efforts to militarize the border and to impose additional regulations and harsh penalties on U.S. employers. As always, policies that promote freedom are the best ones. If national policy makes it difficult for people to come here, they will find ways to do so outside the law.

Clearly the illegal immigration flow is subsiding, the result of the economic and cultural forces that usually trump public policy approaches anyway. We’d suggest that policymakers spend their time jump-starting the economy by getting the government out of the way, slashing government spending and reining in the unsustainable costs of the welfare state.