The debate over immigration to the United States should incorporate some new data:
An important article in the New York Times reports that illegal Mexican migration to America has “sputtered to a trickle”. According to Douglass Massey, a professor of sociology who co-directs Princeton’s Mexican Migration Project, “a trickle” may overstate it:
“No one wants to hear it, but the flow has already stopped,” Mr. Massey said, referring to illegal traffic. “For the first time in 60 years, the net traffic has gone to zero and is probably a little bit negative.”
Why? Lots of reasons. Ramped-up border policing and harsher treatment of undocumented Mexicans living in the US has probably had some effect. But, much more importantly, Mexico has become a better place to live. Here’s the Times:
Over the past 15 years, this country once defined by poverty and beaches has progressed politically and economically in ways rarely acknowledged by Americans debating immigration. Even far from the coasts or the manufacturing sector at the border, democracy is better established, incomes have generally risen and poverty has declined.
As I read this piece, I was reminded that Americans seem to know very little about what is happening in nearby countries like Mexico or Canada. Most if not all of what I have heard in recent months about Mexico has to do with drug cartels and their violence. Do we not hear much because of American exceptionalism, narrow-mindedness, a lack of media attention, jingoism, or something else?
The piece also suggests that Americans would benefit by helping Mexico develop. I wonder if most Americans would buy into this logic or rather think that if Mexico improves, America loses (a zero-sum game). Would Americans even approve the Marshall Plan if it came up today?