End of an exodus?


As the debate rages on over border fence construction and the environmental and population impacts of immigration, a report released yesterday by the Pew Hispanic Center showed a marked decrease in Mexican migrants entering the U.S.

Migration rates into the U.S. from Mexico dropped almost 40 percent between 2006 and 2009, while migration back to Mexico remained relatively stable, according to the report. Study author Jeffrey Passel told the Washington Post that "the faltering Mexican economy; tales of drug violence there  and indications (of) tougher enforcement by U.S. border patrol agents,"  could be factors influencing Mexican nationals to stay on this side of the border.

There is no single direct way to measure immigration since most Mexican immigrants are unauthorized and the U.S. does not monitor emigration. However, U.S. Border Patrol apprehensions of Mexicans attempting to cross the border illegally dropped by one-third between 2006 and 2008, according to the report.

In Arizona, where 89 percent of Hispanics are of Mexican origin, the drop in immigration and the poor economy are hurting Latino-focused businesses. Bashas ' Supermarkets is closing three Phoenix-area Food City stores that cater to Hispanic markets, the Arizona Republic reported last week:

No one knows exactly how many Latinos have left the state, but advocates, business owners and experts who track the Latino market believe the number is significant. The collapse of the state's economy eliminated many labor jobs tied to growth industries.

A February report from the Pew Hispanic Center noted an increase in unemployment rates among foreign-born Hispanics between 2007 and 2008, at a rate one percent higher than all persons in the labor market. The employment rate of immigrant Latinos (two-thirds of whom are of Mexican origin) fell by 2.8 percent compared with 1.6 percent among all persons of working age.

The Center's July report notes that it remains to be seen whether the recent decrease in  migration from Mexico indicates a“fundamental change in U.S.-Mexico immigration patterns or is a short-term response to heightened border enforcement, the weakened U.S. economy or other forces.”