Former Mexican Official: Recession, Traffickers, Better Mexican Economy Account for Drop in Migration

By Melanie Arter | February 21, 2013 | 1:41pm EST

U.S.-Mexico border (AP Photo)

( – The flow of Mexicans across the border to the U.S. has slowed dramatically due to a number of factors, including the U.S. recession, the dangers of trafficking, and an improved socio-economic situation in Mexico, a former Mexican population minister said Wednesday.

There were 1.7 million arrests or apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border around 1995-96, when Gustavo Mohar began working as population minister. “Now we’re talking even 300,000, 400,000,” he said in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

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Mohar noted several reasons for the decline in migration, including the U.S. recession and traffickers, who charge more and could be criminals.

According to the Congressional Research Service’s report, “Mexican Migration to the United States: Policy and Trends,” Mexico-U.S. migration grew to about 11.5 million in 2009 from 2.8 million in 1979 with unauthorized migrants accounting for 60 percent of the increase.

“Yet Mexican migration flows have declined since 2006, and recent data from multiple sources show a net rate of unauthorized migration fluctuating near zero, with some evidence that more Mexicans are leaving the United States than arriving, particularly unauthorized Mexicans,” the report said.

“Researchers attribute this decline to the U.S. recession, stepped-up U.S. border security and interior enforcement, increasing abuses of migrants by smugglers and transnational criminal organizations, and expanding job opportunities in Mexico, among other factors,” the report added.

“Some researchers also have found evidence that the high cost of crossing the border has encouraged some unauthorized migrants to remain in the United States for longer periods of time rather than returning to Mexico on a seasonal basis,” the report said.

“Mexicans in Mexico and in the U.S. connect daily by the web, and they know whether there is a chance to work in the U.S. They know exactly the risks that they are facing now to cross the border is extremely difficult now,” said Mohar, former Sub-Secretary for Population, Migration and Religious Affairs at the Interior Ministry in Mexico.

“They know that the trafficker is a bad guy now. He used to be a facilitator. Now it could be a criminal, and a trafficker is charging them much more than before, so it needs to be an expensive endeavor, [if] you want to travel illegally to the U.S.,” he added.

Also, “there is a better economic and social environment in Mexico that makes people balance that probably I will stay, because I’m not doing so bad,” Mohar said.

Mohar noted that there are still “extreme problems of economic and social equality and income and poverty in Mexico, but nevertheless, many people think that it’s better to stay.”

He said traveling to the U.S. has also become dangerous because of gangs that “attack them, assault them, extort them, kidnap them or even kill them.”

Demographics also played a role in Mexico’s migration, Mohar said.

“Mexico has reached the peak of young people, and its curve of demographic growth is beginning to go down and is going to go down,” he said, predicting that Mexico would soon be “a country of older people – not necessarily old people, but older people.”

“The demographic of young generation of 9 million people between 16-24 years old are still pressing the labor market in Mexico, but it’s diminishing,” he said.

The number of central Americans traveling through Mexico to reach the United States has also fallen “dramatically” for the same reason, Mohar said.

“The central Americans understand well that there is no job, that there is crime, that there is risk … so they have decided to stay in central America,” Mohar added.

The Mexican government announced in 2011 that the number of central Americans crossing into the U.S. from Mexico dropped almost 70 percent over five years, the Associated Press reported. That number was based on the number of central Americans detained for being in Mexico without the proper documents. In 2005, that number was 433,000 compared to 140,000 in 2010.

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