Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Memo From Mexico, By Allan Wall

Give Me Your Poor, Your Tired, Your Middle-Class Mexicans
Who are today’s Mexican immigrants?

Are they the poorest people from Mexico, the most destitute, from the absolute bottom socioeconomic level of Mexican society?
Certainly most Mexican immigrants are poorer than Americans, and Mexico is a poorer country than the U.S.A. (though not that poor by international standards).
But the Mexicans who come to the U.S., both legally and illegally, are not the poorest of the poor. That’s because it costs some money to get to the border, about $2,000 to pay the smuggler, for example. The most destitute Mexicans don’t have the money to get to the border.
According to the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) most Mexican emigrants are not the poorest of the poor, but rather the upper tier of the lower class, the least poor of the poor. [Fencing in Human Capital, Investors.Com Oct. 13th, 2006]
But not all of them. A growing proportion of Mexican immigrants are from the Mexican middle class, and from urban areas. The average educational level of Mexican immigrants is rising, though it’s still lower than that of the U.S. According to one calculation, 1 in 15 Mexicans in the U.S. has a college degree.

Even Felipe Calderon, Mexico’s president-elect, has relatives north of the border. Calderon says he has a cousin and a brother-in-law in the U.S. but he won’t reveal their legal statuses! [Mexican job-seekers often from middle class AP Bill Weissert, May 7th, 2006]
As I pointed out in a recent Memo from Mexico the Pew Hispanic Center says most Mexican immigrants had jobs in Mexico before emigrating, and the Mexican government has admitted that Mexican emigration is driven by cultural factors and not just economics.
This is all consistent with my personal observations living here in Mexico. I have known several Mexicans who had jobs but emigrated anyway. I knew of an individual who owned a business but still felt compelled to emigrate—against his family’s wishes. So he moved illegally to the U.S. where he got on the dole. That’s family values for you!
Recently, another Mexican I know asked me to get him across the border illegally. This man already has a job in Mexico, but he wants to work illegally in the U.S. to earn money to remodel his house.
Then there’s a family I know that is quite well-off. (Politically-speaking however, they’re quite leftist.) The father of the family is an engineer with a good job and they’ve vacationed in Europe. A few years ago, a young man in that family spent some time working illegally in the U.S. heartland. Why? To make a statement? To raise some extra spending money?
Why do Mexicans migrate to the U.S.A.?
The vast majority are not seeking freedom, they aren’t rejecting their Mexican culture and nationality and they don’t want to become Americans. (But becoming a dual citizen is an attractive option because you can have your cake and eat it too.)
The answer is very simple. They want to make more money.
That’s perfectly understandable, isn’t it? The minimum wage in Mexico is $4 a day, so illegal aliens can earn sub-minimum wages north of the border and still make more than in Mexico.
According to the World Bank, GNI per capita in the U.S. is $43,740. In Mexico it’s $7130. (Which is still higher than the world GNI per capita of $6987.)
According to the CIA World Factbook, the U.S. GDP per capita is $41,600, while Mexico’s is $10,000, still higher than the world GDP per capita of $9,500.
Andres Rozental, of the Mexican Council on Foreign Relations and current adviser to Felipe Calderon, puts it quite bluntly when he says:
“There’s a huge wage differential, sometimes 10-to-1. Even if people have a job in Mexico, they will go to the United States.” [Recent immigrants educated, employed but seek better jobs, Laurence Iliff, DallasNews.com, June 6th, 2006]
After several decades of mass emigration from Mexico—the “ Mexodus”—the phenomenon has taken on a life of its own. A vast social network on both sides of the border supports it, and virtually the entire Mexican society either encourages it or fails to discourage it. Many young Mexicans grow up with the expectation that they will emigrate someday.
You can study Mexican emigration in relation to the Mexican economy, Mexican demography, Mexican politics and Mexican culture . But the main reason Mexicans emigrate is to make money—and the main reason they’re able to is that the U.S. governments allow and even encourages it.
Mexican professor Rodolfo Tuiran, former head of CONAPO (the National Population Council) hit the nail on the head when he said:
“Emigration is not going to be halted by job creation alone.” Recent immigrants employed, educated, By Laurence Iliff, The Dallas Morning News, June 11, 2006
That’s for sure. Mass immigration can only be halted if the U.S. government decides to halt it.
Will the Bush-Pelosi administration want to halt immigration?