7 Charts That Show Why Real Immigration Reform Might Finally Be Possible

Lower border crime and an improving Mexican economy have radically changed the backdrop against which the immigration debate is playing out.
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A fascinating presentation by Simon Rosenberg, president of the center-left think tank NDN, argues compellingly that the massive influx of Mexican citizens into the United States in the '90s and early aughts was a one-time historic experience fueled by a confluence of high birthrates in Mexico, the economic shock created by the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the presence of America's then-booming economy just across the border. All three factors have changed markedly since undocumented immigration peaked. Mexico is now an increasingly middle-class nation, with smaller families and residents who are less attracted to El Norte thanks to America's continuing economic sluggishness and new opportunities at home in a nation that has emerged as America's third-largest trading partner. All this, combined with a decline in crime in U.S. border towns thanks to Department of Homeland Security efforts, Rosenberg argues, means that the 2013 political argument over comprehensive immigration reform is unfolding against a much more favorable backdrop than did similar efforts in 2005.

"There is no new net migration of undocumented immigrants. That's a profoundly different situation than it was," explained Rosenberg in a briefing earlier in the week, similar to ones he's made on the Hill. "There will never be historical circumstances like what happened in the '90s that created this mass migration .... Mexico is rapidly becoming a middle-class country."

Whereas Mexico in the immediate post-NAFTA years suffered from a "large surplus of rural labor," today Mexico has for the first time a real service sector and emerging middle-class economy, he said. As well, "The perception that the border is out of control is just false. It's just not true .... If DHS had not actually made the border much safer ... I think it would have been very hard to imagine us getting an immigration bill through in this Congress."

His key slides on how much has changed since the House last voted through an immigration reform measure in 2005:

Screen Shot 2013-04-26 at 10.47.27 AM.png Screen Shot 2013-04-26 at 10.47.49 AM.png Screen Shot 2013-04-26 at 10.48.08 AM.png Screen Shot 2013-04-26 at 10.48.27 AM.png Screen Shot 2013-04-26 at 10.48.50 AM.png Screen Shot 2013-04-26 at 10.49.39 AM.png Screen Shot 2013-04-26 at 10.49.51 AM.png

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Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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