Posted on March 2, 2020

A Mexican Exodus Is Helping Shrink the Undocumented Population

Miriam Jordan, New York Times, February 26, 2020

José cared for the bottle-fed babies, 700 of them in all. He knew a calf was healthy if her eyes were bright and her appetite hearty. Droopy ears were a bad sign. He was attuned to calf coughs.

“His job was to do all things a mom would do to look after her young,” said Mary Kraft, who employed José and his brother, Juan, both undocumented immigrants from Mexico, for a decade at her Quail Ridge Dairy in Colorado.

Then about a year ago, the brothers informed Ms. Kraft that they were returning to Mexico. {snip}

The pair are among a growing number of Mexicans who have been departing the United States in recent years, part of a reverse migration that has helped push the undocumented population to its lowest level in more than 15 years.

New data that was released on Wednesday by the Center for Migration Studies shows there were 10.6 million immigrants living unlawfully in the United States in 2018 compared with 11.75 million in 2010, a decline propelled primarily by Mexicans returning south.


The population of unauthorized Mexicans in the United States declined by a quarter between 2010 and 2018, the new immigration figures show, amid stepped-up deportations and an improved Mexican economy that has encouraged many people to go home voluntarily.

And Mexicans, the largest foreign-born population in the United States, are not the only nationality electing to leave. The undocumented population from South Korea has dropped by 22 percent, and Poland’s has plummeted more than 50 percent — returning to countries that have enjoyed economic prosperity.


Mexico’s birthrate has dropped, meaning families have fewer mouths to feed, and getting across the increasingly fortified border with the United States has become more difficult, dangerous and expensive.


The center’s estimates show that the overall number of undocumented people has dropped precipitously in California, New York and New Jersey, states that for decades have been magnets for unauthorized workers and that, in recent years, have introduced sanctuary policies to protect them.

Texas, whose governor and Legislature have backed efforts by the Trump administration to crack down on illegal immigration, has experienced an increase in its undocumented population, suggesting that the job opportunities and affordable living luring Americans to the state are also wooing undocumented immigrants.


About 4 million of the 10.6 million undocumented immigrants who resided in the United States in 2018 arrived after 2010. Among them, two-thirds, or 2.6 million, entered the country lawfully, having passed inspection at an airport or another port of entry, but did not leave within the period of time they were permitted to stay with a tourist, business or student visa. Many of them hail from Asian countries, such as China and India.

There was a 69 percent jump since 2010 in the number of Indians in the country illegally, reaching 619,000 in 2018. The number of undocumented Venezuelans more than doubled during that period, driven by political and economic upheaval.

Conversely, Ecuador was one of the nationalities seeing the biggest declines. The number of undocumented Ecuadoreans in the United States shrunk by 36 percent, leaving 173,000 people. {snip}


Not everyone is returning by choice, of course.

After dropping to 65,332 in the last year of the Obama administration, deportations of people from the interior of the country have climbed, reaching 85,958 in the most recent fiscal year.


The Trump administration has also limited some previously available exemptions for people fighting deportation.