The four-decade long wave of immigration from Mexico to the United States may have come to a standstill, with more Mexicans returning home than are entering the country.
A recent report by the Pew Hispanic Center indicates that the historic wave that brought more than 12 million immigrants to this country may have come to an end.
What affect this will have on a generation of young adults who grew up with the immigration debate raging around them remains to be seen.
The report from the Pew Hispanic Center, a research center located in Washington, D.C., named a number of reasons for the decline in the number of incoming immigrants. These included the economy, tougher immigration enforcement, dangerous border crossings and a decline in birth rates in Mexico along with an improved economy in that country.
It is still too early to tell whether or not this trend will continue, however.
“On a very basic level it’s for job prospects,” said Ryan Enos, assistant professor of government at Harvard University. “When the job prospects start to come back as the United States economy improves you might start to see some of that reverse.”
From California’s controversial Proposition 187 in 1994 to Arizona’s immigration law currently under review by the Supreme Court, no college student alive today has known an America without the controversial immigration debate.
The reverse in numbers may have little practical affect on the national immigration debate, however, as much of it is based on how people feel about the issue instead of facts, said Enos.
Arrests of illegal Mexican border crossers have dropped 70% in recent years, indicating that fewer people are trying to cross the border, while deportations have increased to record levels. All of this comes at a time when the United States has drastically increased border enforcement funding, according to the Pew report.
“As long as that’s an issue that politicians can use as a wedge issue it’s not something that’s likely to change,” said Enos. “It doesn’t reflect demographic change but rather the deep-seated beliefs that people carry around with them.”
Whether or not the immigration trend continues, the impact of the Latino voting group on American politics has become a permanent part of American culture.
During the 2010 election 60% of Latinos voted Democratic while 38% voted Republican, according to the Pew Center.
This folding of foreigners into the American culture has caused the United States to be described as the “melting pot” of the world.
The United States has experienced successive waves of immigrants throughout its history. From the Irish and Germans to the Italians to the Chinese, each group of immigrants has contributed to this country’s history.
But each group has also experienced its own form of difficulty and discrimination.
The four-decade long wave of immigration from Mexico is proportionally similar in numbers to the wave of Irish and German immigrants who came to America during the middle of the 19th century.
Whatever or not the immigration wave continues the political debate will is sure to continue.
“People don’t know the answers so they look to politicians or people they think are influential to answer those questions for them,” said Enos.
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