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New MPI Reports Demonstrate Changed Reality at U.S.-Mexico Border: Sharp Decline in Intended Re-Entry by Mexicans and Reduced Recidivism
Press Release
Thursday, May 4, 2017

New MPI Reports Demonstrate Changed Reality at U.S.-Mexico Border: Sharp Decline in Intended Re-Entry by Mexicans and Reduced Recidivism

WASHINGTON — Drawing from official survey data of Mexicans deported from the United States and previously unpublished U.S. Border Patrol data measuring the effectiveness of its removal strategies, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) finds in a pair of reports issued today that there has been a significant decline in attempted re-entries by unauthorized border crossers.

The number of Mexican adults intending to return to the United States after repatriation plunged 80 percent from 2005 to 2015, decreasing from 471,000 to 95,000, according to Mexican government administrative data and the Mexican Northern Border Survey (known as EMIF Norte). Overall, the share of Mexican deportees saying they would seek to attempt re-entry fell from 95 percent of all returnees in 2005 to 49 percent in 2015.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Border Patrol recorded a drop in repeat re-entry attempts, from 29 percent of unauthorized crossers at the U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal 2007 to 14 percent in FY 2014, according to data provided to MPI researchers by the agency.

“The revolving door of return migration has slowed significantly for Mexicans removed by the U.S. government,” said Doris Meissner, who heads MPI’s U.S. immigration policy program. “As Washington is debating large increases to the record sums the United States already spends on immigration enforcement — whether for a border wall or more Border Patrol agents — the substantial drop in new and repeat Mexican migration should figure more prominently in the discussion.”

The MPI reports draw upon data from the Mexican Northern Border Survey of returnees administered by El Colegio de la Frontera Norte and a number of Mexican governmental agencies, as well as Consequence Delivery System data provided to MPI by the U.S. Border Patrol.

In A Revolving Door No More? A Statistical Profile of Mexican Adults Repatriated from the United States, MPI researchers use EMIF Norte survey data from 2005-2015 to provide an overview of returnees, including their intentions to remain or return, years of U.S. residence, period of detention if any, demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, presence of children in the United States and consular contact with the Mexican government.

Among the report’s findings:

  • Repatriations of Mexicans from the United States have declined steadily since 2009, with Mexico reporting the repatriation of 207,000 migrants of all ages in 2015, about one-third the 601,000 returned in 2009.
  • Almost half of returned Mexican adults with more than five years of U.S. residence left at least one minor child behind.
  • Mexican men are disproportionately likely to be deported, accounting for 90 percent of those removed in 2015, even as the male share of the unauthorized population in the United States is 54 percent.
  • One-quarter of repatriated adults in 2015 had a secondary education or higher, and a similar share indicated they could speak English.

The second report, Advances in U.S.-Mexico Border Enforcement: A Review of the Consequence Delivery System, results from a year-long MPI study of the Consequence Delivery System (CDS), which represents the Border Patrol’s first systematic attempt to employ metrics of effectiveness and efficiency to the different forms of removal and other enforcement consequences migrants face after being apprehended at the Southwest border.

The report traces the shifting enforcement trends in recent years, including the greater use of formal removal and declining use of voluntary return. According to unpublished data provided to MPI for the study, the number of migrants apprehended more than once in a particular year (known as recidivists) fell as the Border Patrol began applying more significant “consequences,” with recidivism rates lowest for the toughest consequences (see Table 1).

While the report, which also drew on fieldwork in the Border Patrol’s two busiest sectors (Tucson and Rio Grande Valley), found that CDS allows the Border Patrol to assess the effectiveness of its enforcement strategies and allocate resources, it also noted significant data limitations. And with declining apprehensions of Mexicans and rising migration of Central American children and families to whom the standard enforcement “consequences” cannot be applied, the researchers note that consequence enforcement is not a viable strategy for addressing these newer, mixed flows that include migrants seeking humanitarian protection.

“Broader questions regarding deterrence, border control, humanitarian protection and political asylum policies must be answered to maintain border security in the future,” said study co-author Randy Capps, who is director of research for U.S. programs at MPI.

Read the Revolving Door report here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/revolving-door-no-more-statistical-profile-mexican-adults-repatriated-united-states.

And the CDS report here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/advances-us-mexico-border-enforcement-review-consequence-delivery-system.

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The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at local, national and international levels.