A new study finds the obvious: if Mexicans cannot find jobs in the U.S. or other countries, they stay home.

Or, more accurately, the lack of jobs in the U.S. and the increased cost of getting past tightened border security have discouraged unauthorized immigration by Mexican workers:

Mexican and American researchers say that the current decline, which has also been manifested in a decrease in arrests along the border, is largely a result of Mexicans’ deciding to delay illegal crossings because of the lack of jobs in the ailing American economy.

The trend emerged clearly with the onset of the recession and, demographers say, provides new evidence that illegal immigrants from Mexico, by far the biggest source of unauthorized migration to the United States, are drawn by jobs and respond to a sinking labor market by staying away.

“If jobs are available, people come,” said Jeffrey S. Passel, senior demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research group in Washington. “If jobs are not available, people don’t come.”

Personally, I don’t care if people come here or stay home. But Mexican workers and their families would be better off if they could find good-paying jobs in their home country. They’d avoid the cost of traveling thousands of miles; the risks posed by hot deserts, predatory traffickers, and racist vigilantes; and the difficulties of assimilating to a new country that treats them like pariahs.

Of course, right now, Americans could give a crap less about Mexican employment opportunities. Yet should the economy “turn around” — i.e., should companies start hiring again and new green industries provide those much promised opportunities — the “illegal immigration crisis” will become a national preoccupation again as more migrant workers seek work in the U.S. and as right wingers seek to gain traction among the American electorate the only way they know how, exploiting racist fears.

In the long run, workers in the U.S and in Mexico would benefit from a continent-wide approach to economy-building. What’s that? NAFTA? Are you kidding me?

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