An overwhelming majority of Mexican residents have no desire to move to another country, according to a new Gallup poll. Eleven percent of Mexicans would leave the country permanently if they had the opportunity, the same percentage of Americans that express a desire to emigrate.
As immigration reform returns to center stage in the U.S., the data calls into question common misconceptions about Mexico’s role as the predominant source of immigrants in this country.
“Americans have always overestimated the degree to which Mexicans want to move here permanently,” says Doug Massey, professor of sociology and co-director of Princeton University’s Mexican Migration Project. He points out that Mexico’s improved economy and lower birth rates have driven down the the forces pushing migrants to the U.S. “The boom in Mexican immigration is probably over and won’t be coming back.”
Fears of Mexican immigrants streaming over the U.S. border have prompted calls by lawmakers for increased border security as a precursor to immigration reform. In his State of the Union response, Senator Marco Rubio indicated that the first step towards a solution to illegal immigration was to “follow through on the broken promises of the past to secure our borders and enforce our laws.”
But, for the first time in at least four decades, Mexican immigration to the U.S. has stopped increasing, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Net migration has fallen to zero, meaning Mexican immigrants enter and leave the U.S. at about the same rates.
“We have a long rich history of circular migration of going from the U.S. back to Mexico,” says Timothy Dunn, professor of sociology at Salisbury University. He says increased border security has discouraged immigrants from leaving the country; in the past temporary migrant found it easier to return to their homes. “It’s only recently that people have remained.”