Arrests of illegal immigrants along the U.S. border with Mexico are at the lowest level since the 1970s, indicating that fewer people are attempting to cross the border to live or work in the United States.
During the 2011 fiscal year, Border Patrol arrested 327,577 people trying to cross the Southern U.S. border. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials deported a record 396,906 people in the same period. This is the first time in decades that more people were deported than entered the country, according to The Associated Press.
The number of arrests of people trying to sneak across the border has been steadily declining since 2006, after an all-time high of more than 1.6 million apprehensions in 2000. Reports indicate that more immigrants now seek citizenship.
“This is all part of a larger picture that we’re not seeing very many new undocumented immigrants coming in, so the share of new undocumented immigrants is smaller,” said Jeffrey Passel, senior demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center. “A lot of people are staying. They’ve put down roots. There clearly hasn’t been a large-scale departure of people who have been here awhile.”
Some officials believe that the lower number of individuals attempting to illegally enter the United States is related to the slow economy and that, if conditions improve, illegal immigration will spike.