Illegal immigration

May 17, 2012 • Editorial

A new report confirms what the Mexican government announced one year ago: net immigration from that country to the United States essentially has dropped to zero. The Pew Hispanic Center released a report last week stating that for the first time since the Great Depression, the number of Mexican nationals leaving this country is high enough, and the number of new immigrants low enough, that they cancel each other out, meaning no net increase in the Mexican population in the United States.

It would be hard to find stronger evidence that the continued alarmist rhetoric heralding continued floods of immigrants flowing across our borders simply isn’t true. So does anybody think that this new information, from a respected, independent, nonpartisan source, [auth] will lead to more rational discussion, and policy, regarding immigration?

We didn’t think so.

The report came out even as the U.S. Supreme Court was preparing to hear arguments for and against Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070 that seeks to get tough on illegal immigration, particularly from Mexico. And the national primary races have featured both Democrats and Republicans posturing about how they are working to keep immigration down.

To be sure, with the presidential race essentially set, candidates are starting to court the same Hispanics they demonized just a few short weeks ago. Still, it would be foolish to assume that any candidate would go as far as to say that the swarms of illegal immigrants, which they have played up so much in the past, just doesn’t exist.

It’s more likely that the flat immigration line either will be ignored — or paraded out as proof that the get-tough policies are working. As the Pew report points out, the most likely cause for the reversal in migration from Mexico is the weak U.S. economy; there aren’t enough job opportunities to warrant the risk and trouble of coming to this country and seek one’s fortunes.

U.S. industries hit hardest during the recession include construction and service-sector, where immigrants often look for work.

The report did note increased border enforcement, including more deportations, and greater risks involved in crossing the border, as well as changing demographic and economic conditions in Mexico. But in the absence of war and famine, what drives most immigration is the disparity of economic opportunity in the United States relative to people’s home countries.

America’s continued economic woes will be a major — perhaps the largest — campaign issue this summer, as will health care legislation and other controversial measures passed during President Obama’s first term.

Still, history has shown that fear, such as the fear of foreigners and the fear of losing demographic and political clout, has proven to be a successful strategy to roust people out of their comfortable chairs and head to the polls. A few inconvenient facts probably won’t get in the way.

Guest Editorial

The Jacksonville Daily News

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