More Mexican Immigrants Are Exiting the United States Than Arriving, Study Says

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Arizona Border Fence
A barbed wire fence at the Arizona, U.S.-Mexico border. Photo: Ross D. Franklin/© Corbis. All Rights Reserved.

In a huge blow to Donald Trump’s rationale for building a terrific and good-looking wall, a new Pew Research survey finds that net Mexican immigration to the United States has dropped, with more people returning to Mexico than coming to the United States since 2009. Researchers found that 1 million Mexican individuals and families, which included children born in the U.S., left between 2009 and 2014, while approximately 870,000 people crossed into the U.S. It’s the largest net dip since mass migration to the U.S. began in the 1970s, according to the study. 

Overall, the Mexican-immigrant population in the U.S.— both legal and undocumented — was approximately 11.7 million in 2014, about a million people below its peak of 12.8 million in 2007. The number of undocumented immigrants living in the United States was 5.6 million, also down from 2007’s high of 6.9 million. 

What’s causing this reversal? According to Pew, one of the drivers of this trend may have been the Great Recession. A weak economy and poor job prospects likely deterred people from coming to the United States, or forced them to return home. Stepped up enforcement efforts toward undocumented immigrants, including border security and increased deportations, probably also contributed.

“We think Mexican migration is definitely in a new phase,"Ana Gonzalez-Barrera, the author of the Pew report, told the Times, "and it will not return to the levels it once had."