Has Illegal Immigration from Mexico Ended?

border_fenceThe head of a Texas organization called Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together (MATT) has asserted that research by her organization and by Washington, DC’s Woodrow Wilson Center shows that, “the flow of Mexican immigrants into the United States has slowed to the point where more Mexican citizens are returning to Mexico today than are coming northward.” A Wilson Center source asserts, “Illegal migration from Mexico into the U.S. will continue, but we are actually seeing more migrants returning to Mexico than we see coming here.” (See San Antonio radio report here.)

They are both trying to bolster the view that the U.S. should no longer be concerned about the problem of illegal Mexican immigration.

But that view is contrary to 2009 research of the Pew Hispanic Center. “The current recession has had a harsh impact on employment of Latino immigrants, raising the question of whether an increased number of Mexican-born residents are choosing to return home. This new Hispanic Center analysis finds no support for that hypothesis in government data from the United States or Mexico.”  The Pew view is bolstered by the fact that even though the apprehension of Mexicans entering illegally was down during the recession, there still were 489,547 Mexicans  apprehended after entering illegally in 2011 (latest available DHS data). And the most recent official estimate indicates illegal immigration has increased.

Other official data belie the Wilson Center’s claim of a net outflow of Mexicans. The Center says “1.4 million Mexicans returned to Mexico between 2005 and 2010.” That would average 280,000 per year. That’s only a bit more than the 205,811 Mexicans removed (i.e. deported) in 2011. Let’s assume that the 74,000 difference between those numbers represents voluntary returns. That is many fewer Mexicans leaving than still coming to the U.S. with visas. The U.S. admitted 145, 316 Mexican immigrants in 2012 plus another 176,426 long-term nonimmigrants with visas (skilled workers, intra-company transfers and investors) which allow long-term residence in the country and possible permanent residence.

Clearly the issue of improved border security remains relevant to the issue of immigration reform. While illegal immigration of Mexicans has declined, it still continues to be by far the greatest border control problem, even as illegal immigration through Mexico by other nationalities has increased. The official data show that both legal and illegal immigration remain issues of concern as Congress grapples with immigration reform proposals.

About Author


Jack, who joined FAIR’s National Board of Advisors in 2017, is a retired U.S. diplomat with consular experience. He has testified before the U.S. Congress, U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform and has authored studies of immigration issues. His national and international print, TV, and talk radio experience is extensive (including in Spanish).


  1. avatar

    The Statistical Base This Texan Study Uses is Too Small

    600 people interviewed in a Mexican town is a biased/non-random and more importantly, too small a sample to even consider remotely statistically valid. I’m a math minor and qualified to make this statement.

    That San Antonio radio station probaly used a bunch of open border non-technicals to allege “in error” their open border viewpoint is mathematically/statistically accurate.

  2. avatar

    I think we are being lied to, or intentionally mislead. I work in the Florida Construction Industry and I know for a fact that all the estimates out there are grossly underestimated for how many illegal immigrants are in this country, whether they are from Mexico, Central or South America.
    If you are an American construction worker, you are of a dying breed. I’ve talked to friends and past employees in other states, this is going on everywhere in the American Construction Industry. You talk to people outside of the Construction Industry and they think that illegal immigrants just pick our fruits and vegetables, take care of your kids, or clean your house, ask Bill Maher. People that can make a difference are either too lazy, too scared, or are clueless as to what is going on in our Construction Industry with illegal immigrants taking our jobs. The media is afraid to report on this because it is detrimental to their ratings with Hispanics.
    The funniest part of this scenario is that the American Construction Industry is at the heart of our once again having a strong economy, and it’s welfare is in the hands of our country’s worst Congress in our nations history.
    I think FAIR is missing out on some major ammo for their cause. Down here in Palm Beach County, I know of three big companies that steal all the high profile contracts from legal companies by using illegal labor forces, while putting the legal companies out of business, along with their American citizen employees. These contracts were multimillion dollar contracts with high profile names.
    In ten or twenty years American citizens are going to say to themselves, I wish I could of done something to stop it, but by then it will already be too late.

  3. Pingback: Has Illegal Immigration from Mexico Ended? | ApplyCitizen.com