There has been a boom in higher education, especially in technical schools. The increasing numbers of well-educated Mexicans have no need to go to the United States to live a comfortable and even affluent life. Mexico has grown its way out of poverty.
The historic experience has been that countries cease generating large numbers of immigrants when they reach a certain economic level, as Germany did in the 1880s. Mass migration from Puerto Rico, whose residents are U.S. citizens, ended in the early 1960s, when income levels reached one-third of those on the mainland.
All of which has implications for U.S. immigration policy. It seems clear that tougher enforcement measures, like requiring use of e-Verify, can reduce the number of illegals in the United States. Returning to Mexico is a more attractive alternative than it used to be.
And the desire of legal immigrants to bring in collateral relatives under family reunification provisions is likely to diminish. That means we can shift our immigration quotas to higher-skill immigrants, as recommended by a panel convened by the Brookings Institution and Duke University's Kenan Institute and as done currently by Canada and Australia.
Such a change would be in line with the new situation. Mexican immigrants have tended to be less educated and lower-skill than immigrants from other Latin or Asian countries. Lower Mexican immigration means lower low-skill immigration. Employers of such immigrants may have to adjust their business models.
Probably they are already doing so. But government adjusts more slowly.
Barack Obama has been calling for immigration legislation similar to what George W. Bush sought, legislation geared to a status quo that no longer exists and seems unlikely to return. That's going nowhere. But sooner or later we should adjust the law to address the new emerging reality.
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