Illegal Immigration Slows Dramatically While Money Keeps Flowing into Enforcement Efforts

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New research corroborates a trend that has been apparent for some time: Mexican migration to the U.S. has slowed dramatically. As The New York Times reports today, a survey by the Mexican Migration Project at Princeton is showing that our southern neighbors have less interest in coming here than at any time since the '50s. An analysis of census figures by the Pew Hispanic Center confirms the trend. In the early part of the decade, some 525,000 Mexicans settled here illegally. Last year, 100,000 did. The irony is that the feds are pouring more resources into immigration enforcement, even in northern border states like Washington, than ever before.

As we've reported in the past, the Obama administration has ramped up detentions and deportations, locally as elsewhere. And a slew of Washington state counties have in the past few months signed on to the federal program known as "Secure Communities," by which fingerprints gathered in local jails are forwarded to immigration authorities.

What's more, the Border Patrol has expanded exponentially. Throughout much of the 1990s, the agency maintained around 300 agents along the northern border, according to figures obtained by SW. Last year it had 2,263. On the southern border, the number of agents has more than doubled since the beginning of the decade, to 20,558.

Now, you could argue that the stepped-up manpower is responsible for the slowdown in illegal immigration. But the new research is pointing to other factors. From the Times:

A growing body of evidence suggests that a mix of developments -- expanding economic and educational opportunities [in Mexico], rising border crime and shrinking families -- are suppressing illegal traffic as much as economic slowdowns or immigrant crackdowns in the United States.

Whatever the reason, we now have the spectacle of tons of agents looking for fewer and fewer people sneaking across the border. That may be why the Border Patrol is reaching further into the interior, like the Olympic Peninsula town of Forks, where a Hispanic man recently drowned trying to escape from a Border Patrol agent. In short, the Border Patrol may be looking for something to do.

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