Michael Barone
Is mass migration from Mexico to the United States a thing of the past?

At least for the moment, it is. Last May, the Pew Hispanic Center, in a study based on U.S. and Mexican statistics, reported that net migration from Mexico to this country had fallen to zero from 2005 to 2010.

Pew said 20,000 more people moved to Mexico from the United States than from there to here in those years. That's a vivid contrast with the years 1995 to 2000, when net inflow from Mexico was 2.2 million people.

Because there was net Mexican immigration until 2007, when the housing market collapsed and the Great Recession began, it seems clear that there was net outmigration from 2007 to 2010, and that likely has continued in 2011 and 2012.

There's a widespread assumption that Mexican migration will resume when the U.S. economy starts growing robustly again. But I think there's reason to doubt that will be the case.

Over the past few years, I have been working on a book, scheduled for publication next fall, on American migrations, internal and immigrant. What I've found is that over the years this country has been peopled in large part by surges of migration that have typically lasted just one or two generations.

Almost no one predicted that these surges of migration would occur, and almost no one predicted when they would end.

For example, when our immigration system was opened up in 1965, experts testified that we would not get many immigrants from Latin America or Asia. They assumed that immigrants would come mainly from Europe, as they had in the past.

Experts have also tended to assume that immigrants are motivated primarily by economic factors. And in the years starting in the 1980s, many people in Latin America and Asia, especially in Mexico, which has produced more than 60 percent of Latin American immigrants, saw opportunities to make a better living in this country.

But masses of people do not uproot themselves from familiar territory just to make marginal economic gains. They migrate to pursue dreams or escape nightmares.

Life in Mexico is not a nightmare for many these days. Beneath the headlines about killings in the drug wars, Mexico has become a predominantly middle-class country, as Jorge Castaneda notes in his recent book, "Manana Forever?" Its economy is growing faster than ours.

And the dreams that many Mexican immigrants pursued have been shattered.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM