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KPBS Midday Edition

What's Behind Trend That Has Mexicans Leaving U.S.

Pedestrians cross into Mexico through the San Ysidro Port of Entry, Nov. 3, 2015.
Jean Guerrero
Pedestrians cross into Mexico through the San Ysidro Port of Entry, Nov. 3, 2015.

What's Behind Trend That Has Mexicans Leaving U.S.
GUESTS: Ev Meade, director, University of San Diego's Trans-Border Institute David Scott FitzGerald, co-director, UC San Diego's Center for Comparative Immigration Studies

This is KPBS Midday Edition. I am Maureen Cavanaugh. Border walls and illegal immigration from Mexico have been major topics in the Republican race for president. But, does that discussion have any real relevance in the 2016 election? Aced on the findings of a new study from Pew Research Center, the answer may be no. The study found that in the last five years, more Mexicans left the US then came here. Result conforms with results from the US border patrol that address of border crossers have fallen to numbers not seen since the 1970s. Ginnie Mae to discuss the reasons behind the decline in illegal immigration are Ev Meade, director of the University of San Diego's transborder Institute . Welcome back to the show. Thank you. [ Indiscernible ] trueness -- David Scott FitzGerald it is from UC San Diego and author of 'A Nation of Emigrants: How Mexico Manages Its Migration.' David, welcome to the show. Good afternoon. I note that both of you have been following the trend of more Mexican nationals returning home than arriving in the US for several years. USS Theodore Roosevelt, when did the slowdown began? It is tricky because the poll look as the negatives since 2009, but really it began before that. If you look between 2005, and 2009, is about the same amount of people coming to the United States and leaving if you look at the trend in apprehensions and target the undocumented population on the whole of which Mexicans account about half, then it is earlier. Maybe 2001 and 2000 even. That for the decline began? Yes. David, as Ev says, showed zero immigration from Mexico. Now, they show more Mexicans returning home from cash than arriving. Defined veteran surprising? I don't think it is very surprising because a lot of what we're seeing is a result of the lingering effects of the great recession. And in the studies that were cited by Pew Research Center done by Mexico, about a quarter of the recent [ Indiscernible ] in Mexico said they could not find a job in the US. We know that even though unemployment overall is improving in the US, it has been slower to improve for Latinos than other groups. So the Pew Research Center report shows that most people say they are willing to reunite with family, but you say there is also an economic copulation behind the decision? Absolutely. There are several different things going on. One is the US labor market. Something even more important is that there are so few new another East entries -- authorize entries where people have papers and are much less common situation that was a decade ago. That is a result of several things. Bosley, is a result of the fear of being a victim of violence or dialing -- dying along the border. We have been doing surveys of people in Mexico and asking them, what they're graded -- their good is fear of crossing the border without papers. By far the greatest fear is that they will fall victim to one of the gangs that operates along the border, on the Mexican side, or on the US side, that they will die of exposure or drowning in one of the dangerous wilderness areas. Ev, as the danger quotient increases, the economic calculation that must go into the decision as to whether an immigrant from Mexico comes here without papers for stays here without papers, be if they are making enough money to justify that family separation and that danger quotient? I think it is complex and multilayered too. As you pointed out, in the Pew survey, 68% of people said the reason they were returning was to reunite with families. Some of that has to exactly have to do with the labor [ Indiscernible ] in the United States. Also has a do with the labor market picking up in Mexico. It is not the that 20% since 2009. Cities like Tijuana that used to be transit centers, people go there because they want it to go to the US, now it's migration. People are going to the northern border to live in those cities because the job prospects and wages are better. Also, I think is David pointed out, there is a security situation. It is tricky because I'm the one hand, guess, increased US border enforcement does bear on that. Because, as we close down the major urban crossing point, people are going to these dangerous places in the desert, or in the river, or even taking both to the Pacific Coast. But at the same time, that also has to do with the politics of the drug war. Part of the reason that is dangerous too is that organized crime over it session Mexico has colonized what used to be more or less a mom-and-pop operation of smuggling people across the borders. Now, in order to deal with the coyote, you are dealing with someone who is in the pay of four under supervision of Billy dangerous gangsters. Ordinary people don't want anything to do with that. So, it is a multifactorial thing. It is not just one thing or another.'s accommodation of things that make it less attractive. Right. Ev want to go back about the Mexican economy picking up. What kind of opportunities exist that did not before? It depends a lot of fun for you were talking about in Mexico. I don't want to give an overly rosy picture, but in a place like Tijuana on the border region, and this is true to a region like McAuley as well, for the first time, there is a possibility of social mobility. Meaning that you can go, and is not just [ Indiscernible ], but the ability to learn a skill and move up with an industry. Mexico is the third-largest writing partner in the United States. A lot of that is the cross-border traffic in the border region. We do almost as much trade with Mexico as we do with China. What is different there is for the first time, we got multiple layers of industrial production. See you have pharmaceutical, defense, the steel industry, and autos. But it's not just the basic assembly-line production. There is a lot more high school stuff there. It is much more integrated into the supply chain in the United States. There is at least the aspiration you can come from somewhere else in Mexico and get a job, and have expectation that you can work your way up and worked away to a higher wage. David, the Pew study views about life in the north are really changing in Mexico with a growing, not a majority, but a growing majority saying that life is pretty much the same either in the US or in Mexico. Is not a big change from the answers that you got a few years ago for your book a nation of immigrants? Is becoming more the case that they're all our tournaments in Mexico. For some of the reasons that Ev was detailing, but there's other things going on. This is really changed in the last 10 or 15 years. One of them is that there are greater opportunities for higher education now, even in some pretty small for these. Higher education has become decent, so it is possible to go to some two-year college program even if you live in a fairly remote location. There are also greater credit opportunities that availability of credit cards, home mortgages, and so forth, not at the level that would like to see, but it means that it is becoming more possible now for people to finance the kinds of big expenses that they formally would've had to go to the US to work for to finance. Do you see -- David -- this immigration from Mexico something that we should expect to see long-term, or some -- or is this something that will rebound if the construction industry, or another industry really picks back up in the US? You know, if the instruction -- construction industry would pick up in a strong way, I think we would see greater influx. But there is other long-term and happening that suggests that we've already seen the high watermark of Mexican migration to the US. One of those is demographic. The fertility rate in Mexico have fallen very sharply in the last 40 or 50 years. They are barely above replacement levels now. That means that the population there is only growing about 1% year. Over the long haul, there will be fewer young people entering the workforce looking for jobs, and fewer people wanting to migrate to the US as a result. Ev, that brings us back to why stopping illegal immigration has played such a big roll so far in this presidential campaign. Since the numbers are clearly going down, experts are saying that that trend is probably going to continue over the long-term. What are your thoughts on that? It is a supreme irony. The biggest driver here, and I agree with David, is the macroeconomy, and changing demographics in Mexico. These are things over which policymakers have much less control on and sometimes what they think they have, this. What is driving it? In a certain sense, these things are often tailed behind a large wave of migration. So, you can see this with the Irish in 1840s, or the Germans in 1890s, that there is a little bit of a delay before you get the immigrant backlash. That backlash comes with migrants themselves, although some of it, but it comes when it may question as to how they may be incorporated into the -- society. One of the can start voting? What are they can have a roll this a bigger roll in school boards? And, just being a force cultural social and political force in the society, which is always at the tail end. In the case of Mexicans coming to the US, the study points out from 1965 two 2007, migration and Mexicans in the United States for some is migratory flows in history at least in recorded in migration. And, the fact that people have serious discomfort with that a decade or 15's removed should not really surprises. It should however educate us. It should let us stop and think and say, wait a second. Are being led by the spectacle, the picture of the border patrols last summer, or the brightness of the nicest training center? Worse, sometimes anybody looks directly, with about about it. This should be a cautionary tale. To tell us that what we are really focusing on here is a serious of images and so -- insecurities that are soldier this cultural and social. David, we're talking about the Pew Research Center about immigration. Even with the slowdown of immigrations, the study showed that the average length of time that Mexican immigrants are in this country has increased. The average lead the time is only 77% that have been in the US for a decade. They are older. They are better educated. How do you think that that should impact the discussion about immigration reform policies, and a path to citizenship? There is been a really long leg and the public discussion around Mexican immigration. In many ways, we are talking about ones that are already starting to resolve themselves. To me at makes sense to focus more now on questions of integration, because we're talking about the future of this country. And, what are the public policies that can be put in place to better integrate a population that is here? The Pew study lines that one Mexican families left this country to go back to Mexico, one would imagine that the parents were here illegally. But they took their citizen best US citizen kids with them. Does not speak to about a lack of confidence that immigration reform and eight, change in policy, really will take place? In our surveys, we asked people about their knowledge about US politics of immigration reform. Most people are rightly skeptical about there will be any kind of legalization anytime soon. All of this is stuck in the Congress right now, and Paul Ryan who said that you will not negotiate with President Obama on this issue. It will really be until we have another presidential election, perhaps new Congress that will see any serious movement on conference of immigration reform. People know that here and there. What you are both saying is that the issue of immigration in the United States and people who are here illegally is changing as we speak. It is more long-term, more a part of the fabric of the United States. But, the idea of this transitory migration between the US and Mexico, and that is slowing down, is actually having consequences. We heard from San Diego Farm Bureau that growers are having problems getting enough workers to harvest crops. What other impacts are we seeing from that kind of this migratory immigration from Mexico? I think they are diverse. I think that in part -- think that it is hard to say the impact. I think they are the more the aftereffects of broader changes in the economy and demographics and that two countries. The most important question about what this means going forward is, if we are able to come to her recognition about incorporating people fully into American society, and we are able to put it in paradigms that they understand? For example, one of the great lessons for a lot in US history is that you can have separate but equal. We become to a broad agreement on that with regard to African-Americans in the way we think about policy. We haven't gotten there with Mexican Americans yet. The house this situation where we have a population that is basically permanent, or semipermanent that is exposed to certain aspects of American society and economy, but have not been fully integrated. Until your fully integrated, they are going to be in situations that are right for obvious, but abuse in a way that hurts ordinary people too. It is a beast that will drive ages this wages and hospitality and construction down. But, it drives and down not because people are coming, because those people are not fully incorporated. I have to end it there pics I've been -- this. I've been speaking with Ev Meade, and David Scott FitzGerald. Thank you both very much.

A study from the Pew Research Center found that from 2009 to 2014 about 870,000 Mexican immigrants came to the U.S. During those same years, about a million Mexicans and their families left the U.S. for Mexico.

The result was a net loss of 140,000 people to Mexico, and it reversed a decades-long mass migration from the U.S.'s southern neighbor.

According to the study, 61 percent of people polled said they were leaving the U.S. so they could reunite with their families.

Ev Meade of the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego said the reasons more Mexicans are leaving the U.S. is “complex and multilayered.”

It is a combination of what is happening in the U.S. and Mexico labor markets, as well as a decrease in unauthorized entries.

“A lot of what we’re seeing is the result of the lingering effects of the Great Recession,” said David Scott FitzGerald from the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at UC San Diego and author of "A Nation of Emigrants: How Mexico Manages Its Migration." He said that while the unemployment rate in the United States is improving overall, it is slower to improve for Latinos.

Concurrently, the labor market in Mexico is picking up. Meade said the gross domestic product in Mexico has gone up 25 percent since 2009. He said there is now more of a possibility of upward social mobility in Mexico. FitzGerald said greater opportunities for higher education exist in Mexico than previously. It’s also easier to get financial credit, he said.

The decrease in unauthorized entries is due to an increased fear of falling victim to violence or dying along the border when attempting to cross into the U.S., FitzGerald said.

“We’ve already seen the high water mark of Mexican migration to the U.S.,” FitzGerald said.

What’s Behind Trend That Has Mexicans Leaving U.S.