Border Patrol

Border patrol agents and others talk at an immigration checkpoint near the U.S.-Mexico border in southern Arizona.

Undocumented immigration from Mexico has dropped so significantly over a decade that Mexicans no longer make up the majority of those living in the U.S. illegally, according to a Pew Research Center report.

Mexicans make up less than half the total undocumented immigrant population for the first time in more than half a century, the report says.

Arizona is among more than a dozen states showing a decline, with 220,000 fewer undocumented immigrants in 2017 than 2007.

More undocumented people are leaving the U.S. than staying, the report says.

“The first time that I went to Mexico, I was probably around 23, I self-deported,” said Jesus Barrón Quezada, an undocumented immigrant who grew up in Mesa from the age of 4. The now 33-year-old returned several times to the U.S. but now lives in Mexico.

The number of undocumented immigrants from Central America and Asia ticked upward, with 400,000 and 130,000 respectively.

Recently, President Donald Trump threatened to impose a 5% tariff on Mexican goods to deal with what he called a “sustained influx of illegal aliens,” ultimately backing off the threat after a reported agreement was made with Mexico.

According to the Pew research, undocumented immigrants in the U.S. labor force declined to 7.6 million in 2017, down from 8.2 million in 2007.

Earlier Pew data show that, in 2016, undocumented immigrants made up 5.7% of the workforce in Arizona, nearly 1% higher than the national average.

“These shifts in population in terms of undocumented immigrants and folks coming over, it’s more related to the economic stability in their own countries,” said Tomas Robles, co-executive director of Living United for Change in Arizona, a group advocating for social, racial and economic justice. “It’s not because of anything in the (Trump) administration is doing.”

Robles attributes the decline of undocumented immigants to lower birthrates in Mexico along with increased living standards.

“Because the economy’s been growing slightly since that time, you’re seeing more Mexican nationals being able to afford to live and sustain themselves better in Mexico,” he said. “You still see farmers and other people migrate, but at a much lower rate.”

Pew research shows adult undocumented migrants had lived, on average, 15 years in the U.S, the longest stay since 1995.

But deportations may also play a role in the decline, Robles said.

“There were a lot of undocumented immigrants here that were sent back,” he said. “Because they’ve gained skills either in English or other types of skills here, they’ve been able to better transition into Mexican life.”

For Quezada, who considers Mesa his first home, the transition took many years.

“I didn’t want to face the fact that I was going to get deported eventually, just knowing the fact of the political climate in Arizona,” Quesada said.

Still, the return to Mexico was a shock.

“As far as family in Mexico, it’s just … cousins that I don’t know, the majority of my family is in the states working,” he said. “It was just meeting strangers that were supposedly my family.”

Quezada soon left Mexico but was deported almost immediately.

“It was worth coming back, trying again,” he said. “Putting a risk on myself to get deported to for the second time. And yes, thankfully, I was able to cross and be home with my family.”

Eventually, though, an earlier DUI caught up to him when he was pulled over for a traffic violation. Quezada said he was arrested, spent four months in custody, and then was deported.

“It lasted another five, six months, Quezada said. “I was homesick and missed my family.”

Quezada made it to the U.S. again and was more cautious. He was here for a few years, met his now wife and she got pregnant. But with a new family, he wanted to settle his warrant for failing to attend his DUI classes, Quezada said.

“I did everything. I went to the class, I took the class, I paid for the class,” Quezada said. “I showed up in front of the judge and show them all my documents … and I guess he wasn’t having it.”

Quezada said he’s now happy in Mexico with his wife and children.

“It’s just insane for me to think about, for me growing up pledging allegiance to this flag every day, from five years to 18 years,” Quezada said. “All of a sudden that one day he hits the gavel on a piece of wood and you realize that all that is gone.”

Quezada is hopeful the future will be better for some.

“These Dreamers, it’s just incredible what they’ve been doing with these people’s lives,” he said. “I have a sister, that’s a Dreamer, a cousin that’s a Dreamer, and they contacting you about ‘How’s life Mexico?’ Because they don’t know Mexico.”

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(7) comments

tomgarven

I only started looking at illegal immigration about a years ago but this article really seems to miss several points. A generation ago it might have been a different story about the immigration of people from Mexico however that is not where the problem resides today. We are basically talking about other individuals from other countries who enter our country legally who overstay their VISA and then become illegal. And the U.S. is still growing at about .7% per year or about 2,314,000. And if you consider what those 2+ million people NEED then you can begin to understand by our air pollution is getting worse even while we produce more and more 100% clean electric cars [EV]. So please do a Google search using the following term. "number of people who overstay their visa". You will get a whole page of links to information about where and why immigration matters. And we as a country with the way our current laws are written can only support so many illegal immigrants at one time. We provide medical care, food stamps, housing allowances and other benefits to those in need and there is only so much of that type of money available when corporations like Amazon make $11 billion in profits and pay NOTHING in taxes. And certainly those immigrants also want or need more cars to drive, homes or shelter for their families, food to eat, clothing and certainly education for their children all while paying little of nothing into our taxing system at least for a short period of time. So please, do a little homework. We are a country of immigrants and I support legal immigration to America. But I don't not support uncontrolled immigration when we have millions of American people living in tents under highway overpasses and using the streets gutters as their bathrooms. And things are about to get even more difficult with the implementation of Artificial Intelligence robots and self-driving vehicles. It is projected that millions of jobs once done by human hands will soon be done by robots. Most economists now say this transition will take place in the next 10-15 YEARS. Self driving trucks means no need for truck stops or restaurants to feed robot drivers. Taxi drivers will be replaced by self driving cars. I can remember just two years ago my flight into Minneapolis MN. The cab drivers were all immigrants and those jobs will disappear. Where will they work in our new automated economy? And fast food restaurant jobs, you know teenage jobs, where will they go when McDonald's will be serving hamburgers by robot. So we need to get our members of Congress of their behinds and start doing the job we paid them to do. I am so sick and tired of hearing about Trump while as they say, Rome burns to the ground. He may be another president like Bill Clinton who was impeached and then finished out his term in office. But my guess is that he will most likely also finish out his term. But we had better get on with governing our country.

bob b

If Rvr took the time to read the articles, he would not be posting drivel on a constant basis.

HwyRovr

Drivel? You want to see some actual, unabashed drivel? Here you go - "MEXICO WILL PAY FOR THE WALL! Once again, “MEXICO WILL PAY FOR THE WALL!" For the truly stupid supporters of the lying draft dodger, "MEXICO WILL PAY FOR THE WALL!" Anything else – even one thin dime of taxpayer money - is unacceptable. The people of the United States of America DO NOT WANT TO PAY FOR A STUPID WALL! The only crisis in America is an ignorant, petulant, man-child squatting in our White House.

VA172

You say not one thin dime for the wall. I don't want to spend one thin dime on illegal immigrants. You would rather spend 100 billion for illegals instead of 9 billion for border protection that includes some wall which you say is far too expensive. Obama and Clinton along with other leaders have said illegal immigration has to stop. They did nothing. Now that someone steps up and does, it's not right. You know very well if Clinton had by some chance got elected and proposed the same Trump has she would have had full backing of the Dems.

HwyRovr

Will you look at that! I guess the draft dodging idiot squatting in our White House has lied again! So obviously there is no "crisis" at the border and no need to spend billions of dollars on an ego edifice for a petulant man-child.

JVW

Buffoon-n again I see

VA172

Hwy and his same old garbage.

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