Political Animal


April 11, 2012 4:17 PM Net Migration From Mexico: Zero

By Ed Kilgore

This news has not gotten nearly the attention it deserves (via the Christian Science Monitor):

While the loud immigration controversy of recent years - with walls erected and sheriffs planning anti-immigrant armies - got the headlines, the powerful migration shift went on largely unnoticed….
At the macroeconomic level, Douglas Massey, founder of the Mexican Migration Project at Princeton University, has documented what he calls “net zero” migration. The population of undocumented immigrants in the US fell from 12 million to approximately 11 million during the height of the financial crisis (2008-09), he says. And since then, Mexicans without documents aren’t migrating at rates to replace the loss, creating a net zero balance for the first time in 50 years.

Now you can argue back and forth all you want about why this has happened: the U.S. recession, relatively strong economic growth in Mexico, or the discouragement of immigration, legal and illegal, by the United States and the federal government.

But we should be able to agree that it’s time for anti-immigrant hysteria among conservatives to end. We’re not being overrun by undocumented workers and their families. We still have to figure out what to do with those who remain, and ask ourselves if cattle cars or “self-deportation” are superior to assimilation and an earned path to citizenship.

To those who say anti-immigrant animus isn’t the big deal in conservative politics that it used to be, I’d reply: tell that to Rick Perry, whose campaign succumbed to it, or Mitt Romney, who used it to dispose of what in retrospect may have been the most formidable challenge to his nomination.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Ron Byers on April 11, 2012 4:26 PM:

    Seriously, our economy is so crappy the illegals are leaving. American exceptionalism? Really?

  • majun on April 11, 2012 4:28 PM:

    The anti-abortion crusade is in danger of becoming a war against women as the radical fringe element ups the ante to include all forms of birth control. Taxes continue to remain at their lowest levels of any living memory. Same sex marriage is now approved of by a clear majority of the population. Now you tell us that the country is no longer being overrun by the brown hordes from across the border.

    Without a good wedge issue how do you expect the GOP to compete in the upcoming elections? You surely don't expect them to formulate real policies and advocate for anything positive, do you? That would undo almost fifty years of rightward drift into the wedge-issue/scare tactics of fringe politics. It's a little late in the game to require the GOP to become a real political party again.

  • JM917 on April 11, 2012 4:46 PM:

    No matter what the hard numbers, the US conservative movement is full-bore nativist and so will rail against those furriners who pollute our soil and speak languages they can't be bothered to try to understand. And of course the same goes for those red-blooded "real Americans" who see themselves as locked in a death-struggle against "illegals" who are stealing all their jobs.

    It's all to deflect attention from those who exploit both immigrant labor and bottom-of-the-heap working-class "real Americans."

    It's always that way.

  • P-Dog on April 11, 2012 4:48 PM:

    Net chance that conservatives will tone down the rhetoric: zero.

  • Danp on April 11, 2012 4:49 PM:

    I suspect part of the reason is that more unemployed and under-employed people are willing to work for low wages off the books.

  • zandru on April 11, 2012 5:26 PM:

    "itís time for anti-immigrant hysteria among conservatives to end"

    Can't we have them wait until AFTER the election?

  • Bo on April 11, 2012 6:19 PM:

    We better hurry up and get that dang wall built.
    If not, how the heck are we going to keep those dadburned illegals in the U.S. so they can pick our crops, roof our houses and do everything else we refuse to do for ourselves?

  • anandine on April 11, 2012 7:00 PM:

    Here's what I think we should do: Allow illegal aliens to become permanent legal residents but not citizens, unless they go back to their home country and apply from there.

    Liberals should go for it, since everyone is regularized,and no families are broken up. The few sane conservatives should like it, because there is no path to citizenship.

  • cmdicely on April 11, 2012 7:16 PM:

    Headline is not supported by the content: what is actually reported is a net increase in undocumented immigrants in the US, originating from Mexico, of zero, not net migration from Mexico of zero.

    There are, you know, people who migrate to (or from) Mexico that are not undocumented, and don't figure into this calculation

  • Eli Rabett on April 12, 2012 4:28 PM:

    It's not just Mexico but also Central America

  • Bob Cobb on April 23, 2012 2:15 PM:

    Great analysis in this from the Pew Research Center here: http://bit.ly/JqEH5k