Research released Tuesday by a binational organization concludes that the flow of Mexican immigrants into the United States has slowed to the point where more Mexican citizens are returning to Mexico today than are coming northward.
"This information confirms that this flow has considerably diminished, and there is an important group of people going back to Mexico on their own," Aracely Garcia-Granados, Executive Director of the San Antonio based organization Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together, told 1200 WOAI news. She calls this 'the untold half of the immigration story.'
"We call it the 'end of an era' because we are not receiving this tsunami of people continuing to arrive from Mexico."
MATT and the Washington based Wilson Center reported that 1.4 million Mexicans returned to Mexico between 2005 and 2010, and the Wilson Center's Miguel Salazar says that number has likely accelerated since 2010.
"I think that we are likely to see sustained numbers right at those numbers," he said. "Illegal migration from Mexico into the U.S. will continue, but we are actually seeing more migrants returning to Mexico than we see coming here."
MATT, which is also based in Mexico City, interviewed some 600 former migrants in the Mexican state of Jalisco, and determined that 89% of them decided on their own to return to Mexico, despite the general belief that most returned through deportation.
"Our numbers show the main reason people returned, number one, or 37%, it was to deal with family matters at home," Garcia-Granados said. "Number two, or 29%, was homesickness, and it is not only until the third reason that inability to find jobs in the U.S. occurs, at 11%. The negative rhetoric against immigrants in the U.S. was all way down the list at 1.7%,"
She says the immigrants who have returned to Mexico have an overwhelmingly positive view of the United States. She says even in their dealings with immigration authorities and law enforcement in the U.S. was a positive interaction. In fact, many migrants returned to Mexico with entrepreneurial ideas they learned in the United States, and are making business investments in Mexico as a result.
"This is a great opportunity for Mexico, to capitalize on this group of people. Before they came to the United States, they didn't see themselves as investors or entrepreneurs, it was living in the United States and seeing how the system works."
She says, also contrary to general opinion in the United States, the vast majority of Mexicans who emigrated to the U.S. had no intention of staying here. Of those who have returned to Mexico, 30% plan to return to the United States, and more than 90% of them say they plan to return legally.
"We are seeing a profound shift in migration dynamics," Salazar said. "We are seeing demographic shifts in Mexico, women are having far fewer children, better economic situation, higher levels of education, and all of these things are really contributing to an economy in Mexico that creates a situation where they don't have to migrate."
Salazar says this opens a new opportunity for the U.S. to discuss immigration reform at a time when the situation is leveling out.
"The lack of pressure like it was in the early 2000s creates a situation where we can address our situation, and have a legalized documented flow of labor, and this is an opportunity for the U.S. and Mexico to make real progress on this.