Mexico City (CNSNews.com) – The number of Mexicans immigrants living in the U.S. has largely stabilized at approximately 11.5 million, according to a recently released report by Mexico’s BBVA Bancomer Foundation.
In fact, the number has slightly declined since 2012, according to the 2015 report that takes an annual look at Mexican migration and remittances patterns.
The number of Mexican immigrants, both legal and illegal, living in the U.S., dropped by 400,000 between 2012 and 2014.
The number has stabilized between 11.1 and 11.9 million since 2005, standing at 11.5 million in 2014, according to the report.
The percentage of the U.S. population born to parents of Mexican origin, however, is growing.
The report found that the number of 2nd and 3rd generation Mexicans living in the U.S. grew by 3.5 million between 2009 and 2014, to 24.3 million.
Overall, the report noted that the number of persons of Mexican origin living in the U.S.—meaning individuals born in Mexico or born to a Mexican parent or parents--had doubled since 1994 when it was 17.8 million, growing to 35.8 million in 2014.
The report found a significant decline in the number of Mexicans living in the US illegally who were returned by immigration authorities to Mexico voluntarily.
Experts say authorities are using formal deportation measures more frequently.
They attribute the trend in fewer voluntary returns to Mexico to both fewer illegal border crossings by Mexicans and a change in practices by U.S. immigration authorities.
“Where once unauthorized immigrants were permitted to voluntarily depart, and did so within hours of apprehension, the use of what the Department of Homeland Security refers to as the Consequence Delivery System in recent years has resulted in greater sanctions employed against unauthorized crossers,” explained Michelle Mittelstadt, communications director for the Migration Policy Institute.
Those sanctions, she said, include resorting to “formal removal proceedings.”
Mittelstadt also noted that illegal border crossings by Mexicans are now at a 50-year low.
“A number of factors are responsible for declining unauthorized Mexican migration to the U.S.—an improving Mexican economy and educational picture that result in better professional opportunities at home and the decline in birth rates in Mexico, among them,” she explained.
The cost of deporting one person can be as high as $12,000, said David Fitzgerald, a professor of sociology and co-director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California, San Diego.
“The big story here,” Fitzgerald said, “is the demographic data. The number of people born in Mexico living in the U.S. has stabilized and the number of people born in Mexico trying to enter the US illegally has dramatically declined.”
Fitzgerald said the reasons for fewer border crossings by Mexicans can be explained by a downturn in the U.S. labor market after the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008, a drop in the Mexican birthrate since 1973, better economic opportunities in Mexico and the fact that crossing the border has become “more dangerous and expensive.”
For the first time in history, in 2014 Mexicans did not make up the majority of people attempting to cross the border illegally. Most trying to cross the border were from Central America, Fitzgerald noted.
In 2000, Fitzgerald said the U.S. border patrol apprehended more than 1.5 million Mexicans, the majority of whom opted to leave the country voluntarily rather than pass through deportation proceedings.
Then, formal deportations began to increase in 2007, reaching about 400,000 deportations in 2013, he said.
A deportation program in effect between 2008 and 2014, known as “Secure Communities,” Fitzgerald said involved greater cooperation by local and federal authorities using fingerprint and other databases to identify illegal immigrants picked up and held by local authorities until processing by ICE.
“The program was stopped in 2014,” Fitzgerald said, “because it was sweeping up a lot of people that hadn’t committed any crimes in the US and it generated a lot of backlash from immigrant groups and employers.”
The program was replaced by the Obama administration in 2014 with so-called “priority enforcement,” focusing more on illegal immigrants who have committed more serious crimes, Fitzgerald said.
“That is the program we still have today,” he added.