A growing number of Mexicans have been departing the U.S., part of a reverse migration that has helped push the undocumented population to its lowest level in more than 15 years, the New York Times reports. New data from the Center for Migration Studies shows there were 10.6 million immigrants living unlawfully in the U.S. in 2018 compared with 11.75 million in 2010, a decline due mostly to Mexicans returning south. The issue of illegal immigration has become a centerpiece of the 2020 presidential campaign, as President Donald Trump has stepped up deportations across the U.S. interior and further fortified the southwestern border against unauthorized entry.
Several Democratic candidates have called for decriminalizing border crossings; establishing pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children; and relying on technology, not more fencing, to enforce the border with Mexico. They have also expressed support for focusing deportation resources on removing immigrants who are a threat to public safety or convicted criminals. The new data shows that the number of undocumented immigrants continues to shrink, a trend that began before Trump took office. The population of unauthorized Mexicans in the U.S. declined by a quarter between 2010 and 2018, the new immigration figures show, amid stepped-up deportations and an improved Mexican economy that has encouraged many people to go home voluntarily. “It is widely assumed that everyone wants to come to the United States but that no one wants to leave,” said Robert Warren, the demographer who analyzed census data for the nonpartisan think tank. “That’s never been the case.”