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An era ends

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The immigration wave from Mexico has passed. Net migration from that country is now zero, according to a new study.

Four decades brought 12 million Mexican immigrants to the United States, many of them illegally.

Yet the report by the Pew Hispanic Center states: “The net migration flow from Mexico to the United States has stopped and may have reversed.”

Some 1.4 million Mexicans traveled to the United States between 2005 and 2010. That is about half the number of the previous five years. During the same time, the number of Mexicans returning to Mexico rose significantly — to 1.4 million.

What happened?

Employment opportunities have increased in Mexico, although wages are stagnant. The birthrate has dropped to about 2.1, meaning fewer Mexicans feel the need to migrate north for more money.

On the negative side, smugglers charge steep prices to guide Mexicans into the United States. Drug cartels kidnap migrants and force them to run narcotics, or murder them if they refuse.

The Obama administration has deported a record number of migrants. Border arrests of migrants are the lowest in four decades, indicating that not many Mexicans are coming here. Fewer are willing to try again once deported, Mexican surveys show.

Mexicans account for about 30 percent of the 40 million immigrants in the country; in second place is China, at 5 percent.

Mexican immigration peaked in 2000 at about 700,000. When the housing market declined and jobs in construction and other areas became more scarce, immigration dropped off considerably. In 2009, only 150,000 Mexicans came here.

Anti-illegal immigrant laws such as the one being reviewed by the Supreme Court this week have caused some undocumented aliens to return home.

Those making immigration policy should take the new report into consideration.

As Robert Suro, professor of public policy at the University of Southern California, said: “We have turned the page in terms of migration. We haven’t turned the page yet in terms of the policies.”

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