Years ago, crossing the border from Mexico and returning to Mexico was common. In 1996, Congress began restricting immigration. They made federal benefits harder to get, deportation easier and limited civil rights.There were further restrictions in the USA Patriot Act of 2001.
Today, very few Mexicans are crossing the border without papers. One reason is the weakness of the U.S. economy. It is also more dangerous and more costly.
Undocumented migration was about 55 of every 1,000 Mexican men in 1999. By 2010 it had fallen to 9 per 1,000. The same rate as in the 1960s.
Legal immigration is rising rapidly. The number of Mexicans entering:
- as legal temporary workers 1995—27,000 2010—517,000
- on business visas 1995—256,000 2010—880,000
- as exchange visitors 1995—5,000 2010—30,000
The number of Mexicans arriving as legal permanent residents is also growing. Since 2005 an average of 160,000 persons arrived each year. Almost all of them are relatives of American citizens.
One reason is that Mexicans in the U.S. are becoming citizens. In the ten years before 1996, an average of 29,000 became naturalized citizens. Since 1996, the average has been 125,000 a year.
Many permanent residents do not settle in the U.S. The traditional pattern was to go back and forth as temporary workers. When the U.S. made border crossing dangerous and costly many people stayed in the U.S.
The problem of illegal border crossing is taking care of itself.
The remaining challenge is the legal status of the 11.5 million undocumented people living in the United States.