By JR on Tuesday, December 06, 2011
One must note that fewer arrests does not mean fewer illegals. The border patrol is under orders to fire beanbag rounds rather than bullets last I heard. That would certainly make me a lot more reluctant to approach illegals
Arrests of illegal migrants trying to cross the southern US border have plummeted to levels not seen since the early '70s, according to tallies released by the US Department of Homeland Security, a historic shift that could reshape the debate over immigration reform.
The Border Patrol caught 327,577 illegal crossers along the US-Mexico border in fiscal year 2011, which ended in September, numbers not seen since Richard Nixon was president, and a drop from the peak in 2000 when 1.6 million unauthorised migrants were caught.
More than 90 per cent of the migrants caught on the south-western border were Mexican.
The number of illegal migrants arrested at the border has been dropping over the past few years, but appears to be down more than 25 per cent this year.
Coupled with census and labour data from both countries that shows far fewer Mexicans arriving in the United States and many returning home, it appears the flood of Mexican migration north has slowed to a trickle.
''We have reached the point where the balance between Mexicans moving to the United States and those returning to Mexico is essentially zero,'' Jeffrey Passel, a senior demographer at the Pew Hispanic Centre, said. His conclusion was shared by many migration experts. [Pew is a Leftist outfit]
Such a steep drop in illegal crossings gives supporters of immigration reform ammunition to argue that now is a good time to tackle the issue.
The Republican presidential contenders Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney have been sparring over the estimated 11 million people living illegally in the US.
Mr Gingrich says it would be heartless to kick out migrants who have worked and raised families here for years, while Mr Romney blasted Mr Gingrich for supporting ''amnesty'' for illegal residents, but he has not given a clear answer on what he would do.
Pew Centre research shows the number of Mexicans moving to the US, both legally and illegally, has fallen steeply.
About 150,000 Mexicans moved to the US last year, compared with 750,000 in 2000. The centre did not track how many returned home.
For the first time, according to US census data, the growth of the Hispanic population in the US is being fuelled more by births than immigration. Hispanics remain the fastest-growing group in the nation.
Data from Mexican surveys show that the amount of money sent back home from the US is falling, from a peak of $US24 billion in 2007 to $US21 billion last year, according to Mexico's Central Bank. [Because work is harder to find for everyone?]
The reasons for the downturn in migration are both obvious and complex.
Surging violence in Mexico has made the journey more perilous, and smugglers have increased their fees, now charging $US3000 for a quick hop from Mexicali. Increased enforcement and tough new laws against illegal immigrants in Arizona and Alabama are daunting, and some Mexicans are seeing better conditions at home.
But immigration experts say the biggest cause of the steep drop is the US economy, which dipped into a recession in 2008 and continues sluggish growth.