By Stuart Anderson
September 4, 2016
The rationale for building a wall is that illegal entry by Mexicans has been increasing unabated across the U.S.-Mexico border. However, illegal entry by Mexicans, as measured by apprehensions at the Southwest border, fell by 82 percent between 2005 and 2015, and the numbers so far in 2016 are much the same, notes a recent study from the National Foundation for American Policy. In other words, illegal immigration from Mexico is at about a 40 year low.
Historically, apprehensions along the Southwest border are a good indicator of illegal entry. “Despite their limitations, then, as now, INS apprehension figures are the best available indication of the degree of illegal immigration,” noted the Congressional Research Service. In general, the fewer the apprehensions, the lower the flow of illegal immigration, while an increase in apprehensions generally means more illegal entry. Law enforcement, market conditions, demographics and the availability of legal entry all affect the illegal flow.
Over the past decade, two factors have contributed to this enormous drop in attempted illegal entry by Mexicans. First, the U.S. economy slowed down leading up to the “Great Recession” that began in 2007. Second, demographics have played a major role in the decline of Mexicans attempting to enter the United States unlawfully.
“Undocumented migration from Mexico actually began to decline in 1999, not because of border enforcement, but because of that country’s demographic transition,” according to Douglas S. Massey, a professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University and co-director of the Mexican Migration Project. “From a fertility rate of around seven children per woman in the 1960s, Mexican fertility fell rapidly in subsequent years and today stands at 2.25 children per woman.” Massey explains that, “The fertility rate is important because migration is undertaken by young people. The probability of migration rises sharply in the teens, peaks around age 20 and falls to low levels by age 30.”
In FY 2015, there were 186,017 apprehensions of Mexicans along the Southwest border, compared to approximate 1 million apprehensions 10 years earlier in FY 2005, according to the U.S. Border Patrol. For the first 10 months of FY 2016, there were 160,196 apprehensions of Mexicans along the Southwest border.
The increase in the use of H-2A visas for agricultural workers since 2011 may have contributed to the decline in attempted illegal entry by Mexican nationals, as individuals who in the past may have attempted to enter illegally instead used the legal visa process, which is a positive development. That would follow the historical pattern. Between 1953 and 1959, a large increase in the use of the Bracero program resulted in a 95 percent decline in illegal entry by Mexicans, as measured by apprehensions at the Southwest border.
Despite the problems with H-2A visas, the demand for labor has increased their use, with the number of H-2A visas issued rising from 55,384 in FY 2011, to 108,144 in FY 2015. Still, processing delays remain a problem for growers and industry sources note that many agricultural employers are excluded from using the visa and others struggle to meet the visa category’s housing requirements.
America still does not possess a means for individuals to fill lower-skilled jobs with legal visas in year-round industries like construction, hotels and restaurants. The influx of children and other migrants from Central America is one manifestation of the lack of economic-based visas.
Parents from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador who first came to the country to work have found that increased enforcement means it is not advisable to travel back and forth. Having established economic footholds superior to those in their home countries many have sent for their children to join them to escape the violence.
If parents could work in the United States legally and travel back and forth to Central America or petition legally for their children (or spouse), then the situation of unaccompanied minors and family units appearing at the border likely would never have happened – and would not happen in the future.
The increase in enforcement personnel starting in the 1990s (along with a change in border strategy) had the unintended consequence of encouraging people to remain in the country after making it to the United States. The unauthorized immigrant population in the United States rose from 3.5 million to 11.8 million between 1990 and 2007, according to the Department of Homeland Security. During those same years, the number of authorized U.S. Border Patrol Agents increased from 3,733 to 14,923 (and is over 20,000 today). In other words, as enforcement efforts increased, so, too, did the unauthorized (illegal) immigrant population.
Building a wall while neglecting to add new ways for individuals to work legally at lower-skilled jobs would continue the status quo. It is neither a smart, nor a new approach, to reducing illegal immigration.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com