Mark Bernstein profiles Douglas Massey, the founder and co-director of Princeton’s Mexican Migration Project—”a unique database,” Bernstein writes, “of ethnographic information about border crossing: who migrates, where they come from, where they go, and how that has changed over time.” From that data, Massey concludes that:
- We are not being flooded with illegal Mexican migrants. The total number of migrants from Mexico has varied very little since the 1950s. The massive influx many have written about never happened.
- Net illegal migration has stopped almost completely.
- Illegal migration has not stopped because of stricter border enforcement, which Massey characterizes as a waste of money at best and counterproductive at worst.
- There are indeed more undocumented Mexicans living in the United States than there were 20 years ago, but that is because fewer migrants are returning home — not because more are sneaking into the country.
- And the reason that fewer Mexican citizens are returning home is because we have stepped up border enforcement so dramatically.
From Massey’s book:
Mexicans had been crossing the Rio Grande ever since it was a border, but migration traditionally was seasonal and cyclical. Young men would head to El Norte in search of agricultural or construction work, earn money, and then return home. But when it became too risky and too expensive to migrate seasonally, migrants simply chose to stay in the United States. Because they no longer were returning home regularly, they could look for work farther from the border. They also settled down and had families, which made them even less likely to leave.
Interesting how our actions have unintended consequences! More proof that illegal immigration is more complicated an issue than many would have us believe.