Recession Means Far Fewer Mexican Immigrants

Friday, 15 May 2009 05:29 PM

By Dan Weil

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What’s the best way for the U.S. to stanch the flow of illegal Mexican immigrants? Engineer the worst recession of the past 70 years, apparently.

Mexico’s census data shows that its emigration to all other countries dropped 25 percent (or 226,000 people) in the year ended last August from the prior year, The New York Times reports.

Nearly all Mexican émigrés – legal and illegal – choose to move to the U.S. The decrease is largely due to Mexicans forgoing illegal immigration to the U.S. because of limited job opportunities here.

In the eyes of some experts, the drop-off in immigration will help U.S. workers. While it’s commonly believed that unskilled Mexicans who come here merely take jobs Americans don’t want, The Center for Immigration Studies claims that’s not completely true.

“It is… clear that there are millions of Americans who do precisely those kinds of [unskilled] jobs,” according to a report on the center’s web site. “There are 8.3 million native-born workers 18 years of age or older working full-time who have not completed high school.”

In recent weeks, the swine flu epidemic in Mexico also has kept potential émigrés at home. Bottom line: after 10 years of increases, the population of illegal immigrants in this country has stopped expanding and may be shrinking, experts say.

Mexicans make up 32 percent of the total immigrant population, and more than 50 percent of them are illegal, according to the Pew Center.

The drop in immigration may have more of an effect on Mexico than the U.S.

“Mexico may have to finally alter the anti-labor laws that keep Mexican workers relatively impoverished,” according to a posting on TheModerateVoice.com. “If Mexico cannot rely on the U.S. to take in its redundant labor supply, it may face large-scale social unrest and, ultimately, a strong push to the Left in Mexican politics.”

The decrease of immigration has other ramifications as well. It means fewer arrests of illegal immigrants on the U.S.-Mexico border and it means less money for family members of those would otherwise emigrate. That’s because the émigrés often send remittances to family members back home.

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