US-Mexico border activity changing

The Migration Policy Institute has released an analysis Immigration Enforcement in the United States recently with some surprising conclusions about the flow of illegal immigrants in both directions across the US-Mexico border.

Most notably, the analysis shows that

“During the last decade, apprehensions in Southwest sectors peaked in 2000 (1,643,679) and hit their lowest point in 2010 (447,731). “

This is referring to the southern border of the US.  Of course, government resources assigned to this border have increased dramatically; so the decrease in apprehensions seems to indicate that far fewer individuals are attempting to cross illegally.  If the number of attempts remained constant and enforcement increased, one would expect to see an increase in the number of apprehensions.  Perhaps the increase in risk of getting caught and the economic problems in the US are acting as a deterrent to individuals considering attempting the crossing.

On a national basis, “according to DHS, immigration officials made 516,992 apprehensions in 2010 — the lowest number of apprehensions since 1972 when there were 505,949 apprehensions.”  Of course the southern border apprehensions make up the majority of this figure, but it is remarkable that the level was last this low almost 40 years ago.

Deportations have fallen as well; the MPI report states that

“The number of removals and returns combined stood at fewer than 1 million in 2010 and the lowest level since 1975.  Combined removals and returns in 2010 totaled 863,647, the lowest number since 1975 when removals and returns totaled 680,246.”

These figures would make sense given that deportation can’t occur until an individual is apprehended.

It seems that the net change in illegal residents in the US from south of the Mexican border is now negative, as deportations are greater than apprehensions.  If this is the case, then the policy debate regarding this issue needs to be re-examined.

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