Mexican Migration Beyond the Downturn and Deportations

Roberto Suro and Rene Zenteno
Date of Publication: 
October, 2012
Source Organization: 
Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration

Contrary to the expectations of anti-immigrant activists, unauthorized immigrants are not leaving the United States and returning home en masse in response to the onslaught of federal, state and local immigration-enforcement initiatives in recent years. In fact, preliminary evidence indicates that unauthorized immigration to the United States from Mexico may be inching its way upward again for the first time since the economic downturn began in 2007. Why? Because unauthorized immigration responds far more to the state of the U.S. economy than it does to the intensity of U.S. immigration enforcement. This casts considerable doubt upon the nativist creed of "attrition through enforcement"—the belief that making life difficult enough for unauthorized immigrants will motivate them to "self-deport."  

TRPI Mexican Migration

These conclusions are bolstered by research from the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute in Los Angeles and El Colegio de la Frontera Norte in Tijuana. Their reports indicate that, when it comes to Mexican migration patterns, "northbound flows are holding steady with signs of increasing unauthorized migration, while southbound flows are decreasing. The result is that the size of the Mexican-born population in the United States has fully recovered from losses experienced during the recession." Moreover, "given the available indicators as of mid-2012, it appears that even a relatively small increase in the demand for Mexican labor in the U.S. economy would prompt a positive response in the migration flows despite intensified enforcement efforts by the federal government, several states, and some local governments." (Summary adapted from Immigration Impact.)

  1. Overview: Mexican Migration Beyond the Downturn and Deportations
  2. Demography: Stabilization of the population
  3. The Border Survey of Mexican Migration
  4. Data: Border Survey

Get more from the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute at the University of Southern California. 


Suro, R., Zenteno, R. (2012). Mexican Migration Beyond the Downturn and Deportations. Los Angeles: Tomás Rivera Policy Institute. Retrieved from