Washington Post on the sharp decline in illegal immigration across the Mexican border

Just a quick follow up to some recent posts about immigration. I’ve posted twice now about a restrictive new Alabama law that has resulted in not one but two foreign auto executives getting ticketed or detained.

The most recent encounter involved a Honda employee who had a valid passport, an international driver’s license, and a U.S. work permit.

I have also noted in previous posts that immigration across the Mexican border — both legal and illegal — has fallen dramatically in recent years.

The Washington Post has a great piece today about this. Despite the fact that the number of border guards has doubled since 2004 and security is tighter now than ever, the number of arrests have plummeted (although, at an average of almost 1,000 per day, that rate is still significant). Check out the graphic:

From the WashPo piece:

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. More than 90 percent of the migrants apprehended on the southwest border are Mexican.

The number of illegal migrants arrested at the border has been dropping over the past few years but appears to be down by more than 25 percent this year.

Experts say that Border Patrol apprehensions are a useful marker for estimating the total flow of illegal migrants, though imprecise because the U.S. government has no idea how many are not caught. But coupled with census and labor data from both countries that show far fewer Mexicans coming to the United States and many returning home, it appears that the historic flood of Mexican migration north has slowed dramatically.

Maybe such clear evidence of a decline in illegal immigration will give politicians a little breathing room to craft a comprehensive policy that actually works — and will discourage lawmakers in states like Alabama and Georgia from unilaterally enacting and enforcing policies that are hurting their own economies.