1993, growth tapered off sharply, averaging barely more than 1.0 percent per year, which set the stage for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994. Despite ensuing increases in U.S.-Mexico trade (Martin, 2009), growth in the Mexican economy did not notably increase, averaging only about 2.5 percent annually from 1995 through 2007—not enough to keep pace with population growth (Alba, 2008). In 2008-2009, labor market conditions worsened because of the U.S. recession and spillover effects of the global financial crisis in Mexico, although economic expansion appears to have resumed in 2010 (Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, 2011). On balance, despite fertility declines that would seem to have dampened the likelihood of migration, employment prospects in Mexico have stagnated over the past 15 years, and indeed probably have worsened in many of Mexico’s high-emigration areas.


Insights into patterns of migration and the factors that drive them have potential implications for budgeting. For example, the importance of U.S. economic conditions for efforts by potential migrants from Mexico and Central America to enter the United States means that decisions about budgets must consider the possibility of increased migration attempts when the U.S. economy improves. With the resources of many components of the immigration enforcement system already stretched thin (see Chapter 4), it is unclear how the relevant agencies and the federal court system could handle higher migration volumes in the current system of “enforcement with consequences.” The evidence that enforcement has been only minimally effective in reducing unauthorized immigration is another challenge to the immigration system and suggests that agencies need to pay attention not only to the level of resources required to maintain current enforcement efforts at the same or higher levels but also to consider whether alternative ways of using enforcement resources— affecting either risk of apprehension or severity of sanctions, or both— would be more effective in achieving the goals of U.S. immigration enforcement policy.

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