Itinerant's itinerary: Sasabe, Arizona
Today I rode from Nogales to Sasabe, from one border town to another, through the desert heat. Sasabe is a tiny town, with a little used border crossing, and it's hot.
It's hot right now in Arizona. The temperatures have been in the upper 90's for my entire Discovery Ride. It's hot, but it's a dry heat. Immigration is very hot in Arizona. Amid all the heat of immigration in the last decade - the "show me your papers laws", the banning of books from a terminated Mexican-American studies program in Tucson, the militarization of the border, and the building of physical and electronic border fences - amid all that heat, we were long overdue for some dry facts.
A recent Pew Hispanic Center report highlights significant changes in the last decade in the facts of immigration. The numbers of Mexicans coming to the U.S. have declined, and the numbers leaving for Mexico have increased, so much so that the net migration from 2005 to 2010 reached zero. This huge migratory shift is due to several factors: a weaker U.S. economy, a stronger Mexican economy, changing Mexican demographics, rising deportation, and enhanced border security. Moreover, of the Mexicans that still come to the U.S., many more do so legally. In 2001 less than 10% came with papers; a decade later it is over 50%. The majority of these came on "family reunification visa", i.e., relatives of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. Finally, in the last decade over 1 million Mexicans became U.S. citizens, more than any other nationality over the same period.
This rise in legal migration may change the political debate, requiring less of a "law and order" response. But rapidly changing demographics can still trigger xenophobia. When political districts change from predominately Anglo to predominately Mexican-American, feathers will likely get ruffled. Let's hope that that the political rhetoric and the temperatures cool off.