The newfound urgency among Republicans to improve their standing among Hispanic voters is not the only reason that an immigration policy overhaul may have a better chance this year than in 2007, when Congress last tried to confront the issue and failed.
By some key measures, the problems underlying illegal immigration — the economic and demographic pressures that have drawn Mexicans north for decades in search of jobs and a better life, and the challenges for the United States of securing its borders — have diminished over the past six years.
The Mexican economy, while still riddled with inefficiency and inequality, is nonetheless humming along, providing many more job opportunities for Mexican workers. And in Mexico, the source of about 6 in 10 illegal immigrants in the US, the birthrate has plummeted over the last few decades, shrinking the pool of potential emigrants.
“We are at a moment when the underlying drivers of what has been persistent, growing illegal immigration for 40 years have shifted,” said Doris Meissner, a commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalisation Service under President Bill Clinton and now a fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, a research group. “There are some fundamental new realities.”