Voices: Another Wave of Illegal Immigration May Be Near

Alan Gomez, USA Today, April 7, 2014

With each day that passes, the chances of Congress agreeing on how to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws grow dimmer. What members of Congress need to realize, though, is that another massive wave of illegal immigration is forming and rapidly headed to our shores.

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Meanwhile, there is growing consensus that changes in the economies of Latin America and the U.S. are creating the perfect climate for another wave of undocumented immigrants racing north.

report released last week by the Inter-American Development Bank raises serious questions about the future of Latin American economies.

A slowdown in the Chinese economy would lower commodity prices around the world, which would hammer Latin American countries that for years have reaped profits selling to the Chinese. The slow-but-steady economic recovery in the USA could also hurt Latin American economies because of rising interest rates and the U.S. Federal Reserve slowing its bond purchases in the region.

Add an improved outlook in U.S. sectors that tend to lure low-skilled immigrants, like construction and retail, and the conditions are ideal for unemployed Latin Americans trying to find work in America.

“There will be more pressure for immigrants–both legal and illegal–to come to the United States,” says Demetrios Papademetriou, president of the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington-based, non-partisan think tank that tracks migration around the world.

Illegal immigration slowed sharply during the U.S. recession. With jobs drying up and more Border Patrol agents manning the expansive border with Mexico, the size of the undocumented population in the U.S. fell from 2007 to 2010, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

But mounting evidence shows that illegal immigration is back on the rise.

Pew estimates that the size of the undocumented immigrant population has increased in each year since 2010, inching closer to the all-time high of 12.2 million. Apprehensions along the southwest border by U.S. Customs and Border Protection–one of the best indicators of illegal activity there–have also increased each of the last three years.

And a study conducted by two officials from the Central Bank of Mexico estimated that, despite a growing middle class, Mexicans–who make up about 58% of the undocumented population in the U.S.–will soon start heading north at pre-recession levels.

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