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There is a saying that America is always preparing to fight the last war. So it is with the conservative crusade against illegal immigration. After all, even as tea party Republicans demand draconian—and expensive—new "border security" measures, apprehensions of the undocumented have plummeted to 40 year lows. And thanks to the slow U.S. economy recovery, the faster GDP growth south of the border and the aging of the Mexican population, the days of a million plus apprehensions a year are almost certainly over. Nevertheless, Republicans are demanding a doubling of the border security force and 700 miles of new fencing as the price for finally lifting the shadow hanging over 11 million undocumented people in the United States.

While the Congressional Budget Office explained that immigration reform along the lines of the current Senate bill would improve Uncle Sam's finances by hundreds of billions of dollars over the next two decades, the Wall Street Journal admonished its tea party cousins for their fixation on the rapidly shrinking problem of illegal border crossings:

The U.S.-Mexico border is more secure today than it has been in decades. According to Border Patrol statistics, illegal entries are at a 40-year low. Apprehensions of illegal entrants exceeded 1.1 million in 2005, but in both 2011 and 2012 the number was below 365,000.

According to a study by the Government Accountability Office, the number of illegal immigrants who escaped capture at the nine major crossing points from San Diego to El Paso fell an astonishing 86% between 2006 and 2011. All the talk-show shouting about America under siege from immigrants streaming across the Rio Grande is fiction./blockquote>

But leaving aside for the moment the arguments as to why comprehensive immigration reform is the right thing to do, there can be little doubt that this is the right time to do it.

Continue reading below the fold.

After all, over just the past few years the population of undocumented immigrants has dropped from 12 to 11 million. By last year, the U.S. recession, stepped up border security, the growing Mexican economy and aging Mexican population combined may have produced a net outflow of undocumented workers. The result, contrary to conservative mythmaking, is an undocumented population over 60 percent of which has now been in the United States for over a decade.

That illegal immigration into the U.S. has plummeted is indisputable. As the Washington Post reported in December 2011, "The Border Patrol apprehended 327,577 illegal crossers along the U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal year 2011, which ended Sept. 30, numbers not seen since Richard Nixon was president, and a precipitous drop from the peak in 2000, when 1.6 million unauthorized migrants were caught." But as the New York Times explained in January, that shift may continue even after the U.S. economy fully recovers:

By some key measures, the problems underlying illegal immigration --the economic and demographic pressures that have drawn Mexicans north for decades in search of jobs and a better life, and the challenges for the United States of securing its borders -- have diminished over the past six years.

The Mexican economy, while still riddled with inefficiency and inequality, is nonetheless humming along, providing many more job opportunities for Mexican workers. And in Mexico, the source of about 6 in 10 illegal immigrants in the United States, the birthrate has plummeted over the last few decades, shrinking the pool of potential emigrants.

To be sure, the ramped-up security at the border and aggressive immigration enforcement begun President Bush and expanded under President Obama has had a major impact. Deportations have surged under Obama, with the number hitting 409,000 in 2012 alone. As a recent report from the Migration Policy Institute revealed, "during the 2012 fiscal year, the federal government spent more on immigration enforcement -- $18 billion -- than on every other federal law enforcement agencies combined." And as Suzy Khimm documented in the Washington Post, the federal government has already surpassed all of the border security metrics (including miles of fencing, surveillance towers, numbers of border agents and more) required by the 2007 immigration bill blocked by Republicans in Congress. Complaints from the likes of Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) that "promises of enforcement never materialize" are simply belied by the facts.

Likely more important than enforcement, both in the near and longer term, is the changing economic and demographic landscape in Mexico. The deep U.S. recession saw jobs for new undocumented workers evaporate, a development reflected in the drop of money ($21 billion in 2011, compared to $24 billion in 2007) sent back to relatives south of the border. (In 2012, Asians and not Hispanics constituted the largest group of new arrivals to the U.S.) In 2010 and 2011, the Mexican economy grew at more than double the pace of the United States. As Simon Rosenberg of the New Democrat Network recently explained:

The Mexican "baby boom" which encouraged so many Mexicans to migrate into the US has ended, and the Mexican economy is producing far more better paying jobs. The birth rate per Mexican woman had fallen from 7.3 in 1960 to almost 2 today. Mexican economic growth is equally significant: by 2010, Mexican GNI per capita had risen to nearly $9,000, up from $3,250 in 1991. Today Mexico is the 13th largest economy in the world, is America's 3rd largest trading partner and 2nd largest export market. If current trends continue, Mexico will be the 5th largest economy in the world by 2050. The result of these developments is that the enormous flow of undocumented immigrants from Mexico into the U.S. we saw in the decade of the 2000s is almost certainly never going to be replicated.
The rising Mexican middle class combined with dramatically slower population growth mean, as Doris Meissner, a commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service under President Bill Clinton and now a fellow at the Migration Policy Institute explained, "We are at a moment when the underlying drivers of what has been persistent, growing illegal immigration for 40 years have shifted." As the Times detailed:
Mexico's population growth has fallen to an annual rate of 1.1 percent in the first decade of this century from 3.2 percent in the 1960s, according to the Migration Policy Institute. The number of people under 15 years old is declining in Mexico, and the number of people ages 15 to 29 will start doing so in the coming years, an important shift given that most illegal immigrants arrive in the United States before age 30.

The result, as the Pew Hispanic Research Center found in late 2011, is that the contracting population of illegal immigrants in the U.S. has been in the country long—and established deeper roots—than most Americans realize:

The Pew Hispanic analysis finds that 35% of unauthorized adult immigrants have resided in the U.S. for 15 years or more; 28% for 10 to 14 years; 22% for 5 to 9 years; and 15% for less than five years. The share that has been in the country at least 15 years has more than doubled since 2000, when about one-in-six (16%) unauthorized adult immigrants had lived here for that duration.

Just as important, Pew found that "that nearly half (46%) of unauthorized adult immigrants today--about 4.7 million people--are parents of minor children."

The meaning of those numbers is unambiguous. Any calls for "self-deportation" or to "send them all back" aren't just completely divorced from reality; such policies would constitute a humanitarian tragedy of epic proportions. Those like Charles Krauthammer who believe that any amnesty before we "build the damn fence" will usher in a new wave of undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Central America are looking at a world that no longer exists. But if Republicans continue to compare the undocumented to "dogs" (Steve King) or "goats" (Trent Lott), or suggest providing free condoms to Mexicans (Mark Kirk) or advocate the construction of an electrified border fence which will "kill you" (Herman Cain), no immigration policy could avoid the backlash from Hispanic voters that kind of GOP xenophobia is certain to produce. And that would spell trouble at the ballot box for years to come from Hispanic voters Pew is calling "an awakened giant:"

To put it another way for divided Republicans, comprehensive immigration reform with a real and fair path to citizenship for today's undocumented isn't just a moral imperative and a political necessity. Now is the time to act. Because while the border isn't—and can never be—100 percent secure, it is already secure enough. That war is essentially over. And if Congress does its job, the people of the United States and Mexico together will have won a great victory for both nations.

Originally posted to Jon Perr on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 02:12 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  can't have or keep out too much documentation (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    207wickedgood
    Nevertheless, Republicans are demanding a doubling of the border security force and 700 miles of new fencing as the price for finally lifting the shadow hanging over 11 million undocumented people in the United States.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/...

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

    by annieli on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 02:17:37 PM PDT

  •  The borders are a manifestation of segregation (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    207wickedgood

    On a grand scale. Gated communities run by homeowners associations instead of governmental entities are segregation on the small scale.
    The impulse to segregate is not, IMHO, prompted by any particular animosity. Rather, it responds to an abiding sense of insecurity that is likely endemic -- related to some personality quirk.
    The impulse to segregate seems to have no racial, gender or ethnic base. It shows up in all aortas of places all around the globe. It may be that some people need an opposite to define themselves-- can't see themselves as boys, for example, except as not being girls.

    We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 02:34:40 PM PDT

  •  demographics changes in mexico and latin-america (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    207wickedgood

    Nicely put with graphs and everything.

    Those changes make the Republican immigration stance even more detached from reality.

    I don't think many people are aware of the huge demographic changes in Mexico and Latin America. Even Kos's recent diaries seem to assume latino fertility is much higher than it is.

  •  if (0+ / 0-)

    If they use the increased manpower to decrease lines at road border crossings it might not be all bad.

  •  I live on the border (0+ / 0-)

    We are already over run by the border patrol and they want to add thousands more. They are like an occupying army. This border bill is closing the barn door after the horses already got out. It is a fraudulent use of our money,

    •  On Our Visit (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      YucatanMan

      I was astounded by the size of the fleet of BP vehicles: hundreds of vehicles. Amazing waste of money trying to keep brown people out, I guess. Still, I think they're American made so good for GM, Ford and Chrysler. Who says the Repubs are into stimulus?

      What stronger breast-plate than a heart untainted! Thrice is he arm'd, that hath his quarrel just; And he but naked, though lock'd up in steel, Whose conscience with injustice is corrupted. King Henry, scene ii

      by TerryDarc on Sat Jun 22, 2013 at 02:55:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  One of the flaws in the "mine are bigger" (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TerryDarc

        Republican plan is that there are only so many towns and roads where the vehicles can go. There are already plenty.

        Doubling the officers and vehicles is only good as a Detroit bailout scheme, and then only as long as they buy American brand trucks. But, hey, who says Republicans don't care about employment?  There's 20,000 more useless jobs right there!

        "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

        by YucatanMan on Sat Jun 22, 2013 at 06:24:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I don;t think (5+ / 0-)

    Neither doubling the border patrol or the new 700 miles of border is going to happen despite whatever is in the law. Its a tremendous waste of money and a really long term commitment

  •  Remember, the GOP are liars (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JML9999, wishingwell, Aunt Pat

    while they are racsists, they are also liars and deceivers.

    "illegal immigrations" started slowing during the Bush years, as America went down the tubes.

    the "Border Fence is an attempt to KEEP IN the cheap undocumented labor repubs want.

    Hypocricy is like wd 40 to them....

    •  Wallmart has a sale on tinfoil (0+ / 0-)

      Check it out!

      What stronger breast-plate than a heart untainted! Thrice is he arm'd, that hath his quarrel just; And he but naked, though lock'd up in steel, Whose conscience with injustice is corrupted. King Henry, scene ii

      by TerryDarc on Sat Jun 22, 2013 at 02:56:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The "surge" has nothing to do with reality; it is (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Johnny Wendell, Aunt Pat

    red meat to the GOP base in an attempt to buy a few more Republican votes.  Is anyone even pretending that it is anything else?

    “The future depends entirely on what each of us does every day.” Gloria Steinem

    by ahumbleopinion on Sat Jun 22, 2013 at 02:06:32 PM PDT

  •  Republicans have stumbled upon the... (4+ / 0-)

    perfect anti-immigration plan.

    Turn the US into a 3rd world country and no one will have a reason to immigrate here, legally or not.

    Its diabolically effective....

    The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function [Albert A. Bartlett]

    by fToRrEeEsSt on Sat Jun 22, 2013 at 02:12:33 PM PDT

    •  By 3rd world, do you mean a nation of... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Aunt Pat

      a majority of people of color? Or, is 3rd world an economic description?
      My right wing "friends" are making the 3rd world accusations too. They listen to the 3rd world media (right wing talk radio and television), and parrot the meme...Polly wants a cracker? Polly gets a cracker.

      Glottal fricative and breathy-voiced mid-low central unrounded vowel, repeated, diphthong ending with a high front vowel.

      by glb3 on Sat Jun 22, 2013 at 02:37:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well since its a republican plan... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Aunt Pat, YucatanMan, Calamity Jean

        You wouldn't expect them to want people of color. ;)

        So what I mean is kill the economic opportunity to the point it becomes not worth immigrating.

        Sorry didn't think that could be misunderstood...

        The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function [Albert A. Bartlett]

        by fToRrEeEsSt on Sat Jun 22, 2013 at 02:47:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  you can't expect logic from the GOP (5+ / 0-)

    they have no track record of formulating policy based on a rational analysis of the problem, so why start now?

  •  The mindset of "Punishing" (8+ / 0-)

    It really is what the American Right lives for--punishing anyone and everyone--women that want to control their own lives, immigrants, atheists, you name it.

    As self-hatred really is at the base of most authoritarianism, this is no shock.

    NEW SINGLE! http://johnnyangelwendell.bandcamp.com/

    by Johnny Wendell on Sat Jun 22, 2013 at 02:14:59 PM PDT

  •  Of course. If our government has a chance to (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Calamity Jean

    throw someone's sorry ass in jail that doesn't belong to them or their banker pals, why would they pass it up?   Just because banks can launder drug money and steal  trillions and not go to jail, doesn't mean the rest of us creeps can.

    What we need is a Democrat in the White House. Elizabeth Warren 2016

    by dkmich on Sat Jun 22, 2013 at 02:30:46 PM PDT

  •  I won't vindicate the Democrats of blame here (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cocinero

    The Democrats in the Senate are constantly trying to pander to Republicans to pry a few more votes, which I doubt they'll actually succeed it doing.  And because they so desperately want their 70 votes, they allow the bill to become a "border security" bill first and foremost.  And the President, who has overseen a record number of deportations, champions the "border security" aspect of it, and Democrats have to give at least lip service to the idea (just like they do with "the deficit.")

    It was a welcome change to listen to Nancy Pelosi on immigration at Net Roots because you could tell that she really didn't like the Gang of 8 bill but tried to talk as nicely as possible about it.

  •  This may sound dumb, but I think this is the least (0+ / 0-)

    judgmental forum to ask.  I  see lots of ranting about  illegal felons violating our borders, but just being here illegal is not a felony, is it?  Is it a misdemeanor, or neither, just a reason for deportation?

  •  Look at the data (0+ / 0-)

    A reasonable analysis of the first graph is that increased border agents is effectively reducing border crossings.  Just interpreting the data.

    •  Actually the numbers are leveled off and (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Calamity Jean

      falling before the number of agents increases.

      And if you look between 1996 and 2000, the numbers crossing and the number of agents are both increasing.  So, did increasing agents increase the crossings?

      Or is there simply no relationship?

      It's tied more to economic conditions in both countries.

      "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

      by YucatanMan on Sat Jun 22, 2013 at 06:30:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  In all of this debate not a single (0+ / 0-)

    person ever comments on the people who come here legally, fly into dozens of airports around the country, and just never leave. If the flood across the Mexico/American border is down by as much as you say then this number who come here legally and never go home must now represent more than 50% of the illegal immigration, yet nobody lifts a finger to do anything about it.

    •  Can't make sense of your post. (0+ / 0-)

      Are you sure you have your "legally", and "illegal" straight.  If not, maybe I misread your post.

      In the time it took Adam Lanza to reload, eleven children escaped. What if...

      by Sixty Something on Sat Jun 22, 2013 at 03:31:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes you misread it (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Calamity Jean

        Tens of thousands come here legally, then overstay their visas and become illegal immigrants according to the common usage of that term.

      •  People come here all the time on a student (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Calamity Jean

        visa, or a tourist visa, or work visa... and then simply never leave.

        However, those who do so are mainly not from south of the border but Europe, Asia, etc, where visas are available.

        Our antiquated system has sharp limits on various countries and areas of the world. That's part of the whole problem.

        Before the Clinton crackdown at Republican demand, for example, many Mexicans would rather easily travel back and forth across the border.  They would come here, work several months, then go home at Christmas. Sometimes they'd come back and work in the Spring, sometimes not.

        Once the border lockdowns and heavier patrols began, people began to stay because border crossings were more expensive and dangerous.  So, they would stay and often send for their families.

        After a few years of more people staying and sending for their families, white people started noticing the increasing numbers of formerly rather invisible workers.  And started complaining.  

        So, Republicans demanding more crackdowns and more crackdowns, which only raised the number staying here and putting down roots.

        A whole cottage industry of illegal immigrant mortgage companies existed. They might be illegal, but loaning them money was not.

        Our entire system and philosophy behind immigration is screwed up.  If we're going to have free trade and free movement of goods and capital, then we have to allow easier movement of labor. Or reject free trade, which frankly is my preferred option.

        "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

        by YucatanMan on Sat Jun 22, 2013 at 07:02:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  E verify would all but end crossings (0+ / 0-)

    but no one wants that because of all the cheap labor the upper middle class depends on. Liberal/conservative, doesn't matter. No one wants to clean thier own house or mow the lawn or pay a living wage to trades folks.

    “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

    by ban nock on Sat Jun 22, 2013 at 05:59:17 PM PDT

  •  Forget the U.S....You should show a graph of the (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Calamity Jean, the autonomist

    unemployment rate in Mexico....It's below 5%......

    Jobs are pouring into Mexico at the same time they are developing their own oil and gas resources....There are still some problems, with corruption and the violent drug cartels, but Mexico is one of the fastest growing countries in the world....

    In fact, many companies prefer the Mexican business climate over the American climate, thanks to the U.S. House of Representatives.....

    I think the U.S. Congress better build that wall to keep Americans in, rather than Mexicans out....I already have my Mexican work visa (don't want to be an undocumented worker down there)....

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