During the American presidential election process, both Mexico and immigration issues have come into the spotlight a number of times, especially with Republican front runner Donald Trump who wants to build a wall between the two countries.

But is Mexican immigration really such a problem?

A new Pew Research Center analysis of government data from both countries shows that actually more Mexican immigrants have returned to Mexico from the U.S. than have migrated to the U.S. since the end of the Great Recession. The overall flow of Mexican immigrants between the two countries is at its smallest since the 1990s, mostly due to a drop in the number of Mexican immigrants coming to the U.S.

From 2009 to 2014, 1 million Mexicans and their families (including U.S.-born children), the majority leaving on their own accord, left the U.S. for Mexico, according to data from the 2014 Mexican National Survey of Demographic Dynamics (ENADID). U.S. census data for the same period show an estimated 870,000 Mexican nationals left Mexico to come to the U.S., a smaller number than the flow of families from the U.S. to Mexico.

Why?

  • The slow recovery of the U.S. economy after the Great Recession may have made the U.S. less attractive to potential Mexican migrants and may have pushed out some Mexican immigrants as the U.S. job market deteriorated.
  • Stricter enforcement of U.S. immigration laws, particularly at the U.S.-Mexico border may have contributed to the reduction of Mexican immigrants coming to the U.S. in recent years, although U.S. border apprehensions of Mexicans have fallen sharply, to just 230,000 in fiscal year 2014 – a level not seen since 1971.
  • Only 14% of Mexico’s return migrants said the reason for their return was deportation from the U.S.

Mexican immigrants have been at the center of one of the largest mass migrations in modern history. Between 1965 and 2015 more than 16 million Mexican immigrants migrated to the United States – more than from any other country. In 1970, fewer than 1 million Mexican immigrants lived in the U.S. By 2000, that number had grown to 9.4 million, and by 2007 it reached a peak at 12.8 million. Since then, the Mexican-born population has declined, falling to 11.7 million in 2014, as the number of new arrivals to the U.S. from Mexico declined significantly. For a very interesting time-lapse graphic on this click on the title below:

From Ireland to Germany to Italy to Mexico: 

How America’s Source of Immigrants Has Changed in the States, 1850 – 2013