Net Labor flow from Mexico to U.S. turns positive again

The net flow of labor across the Mexican border has stabilized and gone positive, after a downturn brought on by the Great Recession, according to a tracking study through the second quarter of 2012.
The Tomas Rivera Policy Institute at the University of Southern California is tracking labor flows across the border through its Mexican Migration Monitor program (described at the end of this posting). Roberto Suro & Rene Zenteno reported recently that “Multiple indicators suggest that Mexican migration to the United States has stabilized at reduced levels after absorbing the effects of the Great Recession and toughened U.S. immigration enforcement efforts.
“The most recent data available show that northbound flows are holding steady with signs of increasing unauthorized migration, while southbound flows are decreasing. The result is that the size of the Mexican-born population in the United States has fully recovered from losses experienced during the recession. Meanwhile, unemployment among those migrants has decreased and labor force participation rates have held steady—a post-recession economic performance slightly better than for U.S. native-born workers. Another sign of recovery comes from an increased flow of remittances to Mexico.”
They go on:
Overall, the mechanisms that could produce increased Mexican migration again in response to heightened demand in the U.S. labor market are largely intact despite several years of enforcement efforts designed to stymie them. The size of the Mexican migrant population has not shrunken in the face of more than three years of national U.S. unemployment rates of 8 percent or higher, a record-breaking federal deportation campaign, and the enactment of laws by various state and local governments designed to produce “attrition through enforcement.” Instead, the migration flows may well be passing beyond the much-heralded “net-zero” point at which the numbers of people arriving and leaving balanced each other out in the wake of the recession.
Given the available indicators as of mid-2012, it appears that even a relatively small increase in the demand for Mexican labor in the U.S. economy would prompt a positive response in the migration flows despite intensified enforcement efforts by the federal government, several states, and some local governments.
Unauthorized flows northward showed signs of increasing in the first half of 2012, according to previously unpublished data from the Border Survey of Mexican Migration. Meanwhile, that survey shows that the outbound flow of migrants voluntarily returning to Mexico is decreasing. As a result, the stock of the Mexican-born population in the United States has stabilized at about the same very high level—some 11.7 million people—that it had reached before the recession, according to several indicators studied for this report. The available data for migration trends in 2012 suggest that the size of that population might show a small increase across the entire year unless the U.S. economy flattens or declines in the third and fourth quarters.

Where the data come from:

The Monitor is the work of a cross-border collaboration between two research organizations that have long-standing commitments to the study of Mexican migration. The Tomás Rivera Policy Institute is the oldest U.S. think tank on policy issues related to migration and is now a university research center housed at the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California. El Colegio de la Frontera Norte (COLEF), a government-funded social science research institution whose main campus is in Tijuana, has monitored and assessed Mexican migration flows for more than two decades.
The indicators presented in this report include government statistics on population, employment, remittances, and enforcement actions. Future editions of the Monitor will feature other combinations of such indicators. The core findings are formulated on the basis of previously unpublished data from the Border Survey of Mexican Migration. Operating since 1993, the border survey is the oldest continuous research program tracking original data on the number of people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border legally or illegally. The Encuesta sobre Migración en la Frontera Norte de México (EMIF) is conducted at selected border-crossing points and at airports in the interior of Mexico by COLEF with the support of several agencies and ministries of the Mexican federal government. The border survey offers a unique glimpse at the size and characteristics of migration in both directions across the border with data systematically assembled on a quarterly basis.

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