Republican candidates may be filling debate time talking tough about curbing illegal immigration coming from Mexico, but data analyzed by the Los Angeles Times in a special report suggest that that’s already happened.
But the number of Mexicans crossing the border illegally has plummeted, the report says, due to a combination of lack of U.S. jobs because of the slow economy, heightened border enforcement and deportations and violence by cartels operating near the border, who have kidnapped, extorted and killed scores of would-be undocumented immigrants.
Mexican officials say that the country is seeing fewer residents making the northbound trek while others are returning in numbers high enough to make some believe that the net migration is nearly zero, the paper reports. U.S. Border patrol numbers seem to bear part of that out: Arrests at the border during the 11 months that ended in August fell dramatically to 304,755 from a 2000 peak of 1.6 million. Deportations, meanwhile, have reached an all-time high at 396,906 from October 2010 through September.
Many of the jobs in sectors that traditionally have drawn Mexicans—restaurants, construction—have dried up during the recession. Tough anti-immigration laws including Alabama’s recent one, have displaced many, though 1.5 million Mexican immigrants still live in the U.S.
Whereas in the past, immigrants’ main fear was making it through the desert and evading border patrol officers, now they also have to contend with cartels and crime gangs. Gangs man the Rio Grande, demanding that immigrants pay $100 or more to cross, or some $3,000 to be taken to big cities like Houston or Dallas. In 2010, more than 20,000 migrants were kidnapped in Mexico and hundreds of went missing or were killed there.