A great New York Times piece takes a look at the declining level of unauthorized migration across the U.S.-Mexico border and concludes that one of the main drivers has been improvement in conditions in Mexico:
Another important factor is Mexico itself. Over the past 15 years, this country once defined by poverty and beaches has progressed politically and economically in ways rarely acknowledged by Americans debating immigration. Even far from the coasts or the manufacturing sector at the border, democracy is better established, incomes have generally risen and poverty has declined. [...] New census data shows a broad expansion of such services: water and trash collection, once unheard of outside cities, are now available to more than 90 percent of Jalisco’s homes. Dirt floors can now be found in only 3 percent of the state’s houses, down from 12 percent in 1990. Still, education represents the most meaningful change. The census shows that throughout Jalisco, the number of senior high schools or preparatory schools for students aged 15 to 18 increased to 724 in 2009, from 360 in 2000, far outpacing population growth.
I’m not really sure why these realities have tended to escape the debate in the United States. But it’s about what you would expect. Mexico has become much less authoritarian, and Mexico-based firms have gained superior access to the lucrative American market. Migration and exports are, to an extent, substitutes for one another. Mexico’s not a rich country or a perfectly governed one by any means, but it’s richer and better-governed than it was 20 years ago so people are less inclined to leave. In general, though, I think a lot of people have missed the fact that, though it hasn’t been as spectacular as the growth in China, Latin America has had a very good run over the past 10 years.