Mexico-US illegal migration has been at zero for 8 years, and other eye-opening facts

NPR's On the Media have released a new installment in their indispensable Breaking News Consumer's Handbook (previously), this one about migration — legal and illegal — and it's a doozy.

This multipart audio (MP3) has lots going for it, but I was struck by their interview with Princeton sociology professor Doug Massey, whose eye-opening facts included:

* "Illegal migration ended eight years ago and has been zero or negative since 2008, because migration is a young person's game. If you don't migrate between the ages of 15 and 30, you don't migrate at all, and the average age in Mexico is now 28 years old."

* "Immigrants, in general, and immigrant neighborhoods, in particular, have very low rates of crime, much lower than native-born people. The US counties along the Mexico-US border are among the safest and most crime-free counties in the United States."

* "There is no evidence that there's ever been a terrorist cell or any terrorist that's ever tried to cross into the United States from Mexico."

* "Immigrants, in general, are very uninvolved in the welfare system. In fact, legal immigrants are banned for five years from receiving these federally-subsidized services. Undocumented migrants are banned from Obamacare, of course, the Affordable Care Act."

* "The immigration detention system is now the fastest-growing portion of the American criminal justice complex."

* "What we did, starting in the mid-1980s was to ramp up border enforcement and really militarize the border between Mexico and the United States. And this drove up the costs and the risks of border crossing to a point where people decided they weren't going to cross the border anymore, and they did this by staying put in the United States, once they'd made it in, rather than circulating back and forth as they had been."

* "In the 1990s, we were spending 3 to 4 billion dollars a year and we doubled the net rate of undocumented population growth."

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Let me ask you about the coverage of immigration issues. If you were advising news consumers on red flags in coverage that people should be very wary of?

PROF. DOUG MASSEY: The first thing to look for is somebody trying to scare you. The second is who are they citing, where are they getting their information, if at all? Media coverage tends to present this side and that side, and they present them as equivalent. Look at the organizations that are producing the information. Organizations that have a self-interested stake in portraying immigration as bad, I don't think can be trusted.

The Center for Immigration Studies, Numbers America (NumbersUSA), they're validly anti-immigrant. They take census data but then they twist it in ways that are really misleading.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Mm-hmm. And what's an organization that does good work?

PROF. DOUG MASSEY: The Pew Research Center in Washington, DC. Pew Research Center is nonpartisan. It employs highly-qualified demographers and social scientists to analyze the data, to provide a factual basis for understanding important public policy issues. And another obvious source is the US National Academy of Sciences.

Breaking News Consumer's Handbook: Migration Edition (At Home)
[On The Media]