The profile of today’s undocumented Mexican immigrant reveals a more desperate situation back home

LatinaLista — To make the issue of illegal immigration more palatable during this election, both candidates feel safe in cushioning their stands with the proclamation that before any real work is done on reforming our immigration system, the border must be fully secured.

(Source: Walt Handelsman: Newsday)
Though it’s implied that securing the border will keep out the terrorists whom we seem to think are biding their time in Mexican shantytowns where they’re plotting before they make their next big move, the real reason has less to do with terrorists than dissuading and deterring any future migrants who either have dollar signs in their eyes or who need to reconnect with separated family members.
In truth, using the excuse of shoring up the southern border to keep migrants out is an admission by the government that they don’t know these people for whom a wall, a fence or a river is an annoyance but not a deterrence.


Frontera NorteSur reports that new data as reported by the Mexican media paints a very different picture of how many people are crossing the border, where they are going and who they are.

New data reported by the Mexican media suggest that emigration to the United States rose sharply in 2007, the first full year of the administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderon. Based on United States Census Bureau numbers, Mexico’s National Population Council (Conapo) estimated that 679,611 Mexicans made the move to El Norte last year. According to Conapo, the number of Mexican nationals relocating to the US was up 5.9 percent from 2006. It was the highest jump in Mexican emigration registered since 2002.

However, because of the slumping U.S. economy, the volatile anti-immigrant climate and, yes, stricter border measures, it is being reported there are fewer Mexicans heading north. Yet, the ones who are still coming are doing so for a different reason — because they’re fleeing the random kidnappings and drug war crossfire that has gripped their country.
The revelations don’t stop there.
Forty-four percent of all Mexican migrants who are here are women. And while the popular notion is that migrants are coming for jobs in agriculture, the truth is that only 4 percent end up picking fruit and vegetables. “Fifty percent of employed migrants toil in the service sector and another forty percent work in manufacturing, according to Conapo.”
Also, almost 70 percent of the Mexican migrants are between the ages of 15 to 44 and in an aging economy that is positive news. What is not so positive is that 50 percent of all Mexican migrants have less than a high school education.
While an education is not a determining factor of how hard a person works, it is a factor in how much a person is paid. Needless to say, because of the low educational levels, most migrants live well below the poverty line.
If ever there is a group caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place it is Mexican migrants. They flee an economy that can’t support them and are being turned away by an economy that won’t.
What is missing in dealing with the illegal immigration issue is looking at it from the perspective of how it can be mutually beneficial for both Mexico and the United States which share a much stronger symbiotic relationship than critics want to believe.
It goes beyond Mexicans merely working on this side of the border to send remittances home.
It means re-evaluating a working relationship with Mexico where U.S. manufacturing jobs are once again created south of the border, and collaborating on new ways to help Mexico create the kind of security, safety and educational opportunities for all its citizens so that future waves of migrants won’t have to break the law to be in this country.
After all, it’s common sense to see that if things were as good back home as they are living in poverty is here, most undocumented migrants wouldn’t be here.

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9 Comments

  1. Irma said:

    Marisa,
    It seems that only Latinos care about immigration. None of the Obamite blogs ,
    African American blogs (eg Jack and Jill
    poltics) or the conservative blogs care one bit. This is why Latinos and the issues we care about have been put on the back burner
    American politicians and the American public fail to understand that their relationship with their Southern neighbors
    can be mutually beneficial. They wouldnt need to ‘secure’ the southern border of the US if they had a guest worker program in place. it would be to
    Mexico’s benefit to monitor the US
    border because any harm to the US would impact the economy of Mexico.
    But, no all Americans want (black and white ) is to build a fence.
    I guess no one will listen us until we
    control the vote in California, New Mexico, Texas, and New York.
    That day is not so far away.

  2. Sandra said:

    I think all Americans care about legal and illegal immigration but it is mainly Latinos who are getting worked up over illegal immigration because of their ethnic connection to the majority of those illegally in our country.
    We already have a guest worker program so I wouldn’t say that is the answer unless one thinks we need to increase the numbers of guest workers. I really think a study should be done by our government first to determine whether or not this is what we need to do.
    As for the fence, I think it is warranted and feasible in some areas. It isn’t only going to be built to keep out those looking for work. It will also be built to keep out criminals and terrorists who might try to enter in this manner. Really, we need some sort of partial physical barrier on both of our borders. Just as locking all of your doors at night will not be 100% effective in preventing a break in it does offer some protection for your family.
    Americans do not have a vote on immigration issues, only our congressmen do. So a particular ethnic group becoming the majority in certain states will do nothing to change immigration policies especially since there are 50 states in the union.
    I would really like to see Mexico prosper economically and therefore their citizens remain in their homeland. Both of our governments however, have a vested interest in greed rather than serving its citizens. Both the citizens of the U.S. and Mexico need to make the necessary changes in their governments to put a halt to their self-serving interests.

  3. Tina said:

    Excellent blog! Thank you for highlighting the symbiotic relationship between the US and Mexico and how we need to foster this relationship, not tear it apart further.
    It is common sense, it is our job to make the media more aware of this fact!

  4. Pieter Speyer said:

    Irma is correct. The Hispanic Vote will be the single most important contribution that Hispanics can make to the U.S. Their vote will change the view of Hispanics dramatically. The Congressional candidates should be studied because it is the Congressional members who can change the unfair immigration law.

  5. Horace said:

    I love your cartoon illustration. Maybe we ought to just open up the borders to millions of other illiterate poor from Pakistan, India, China, North Korea, and let them have the same opportunity that illegal aliens seem to think is their right. Why should Hispanics have all the fun? Just because Mexico has a common border with we Americans? We’ll just let them all come in, greeted with roses and welcome wagons and permit them to swamp our street corners with day workers, swelling our population with needy who would require huge sums from the treasury to live more than a hand to mouth existance. You spout a lot of impractical and unfair nonsense, Marisa.

  6. laura said:

    Irma, I think you are right that most Americans who are not affected directly by the threat that their family will be separated, or they can’t complain about wages not payed, etc, don’t care about immigration. I think most Americans actually have no idea what is going on.
    I do think that once Americans find out what is happening to people in their midst, most would care, and most would disagree with the atrocities committed against immigrants. I do believe most Americans have a sense of what’s fair, and what’s right and wrong.
    So we have our work cut out for us explaining the truth to everyone. I agree with you that some day soon Latina/os will be a force simply by numbers. But I don’t want to wait until that day, since people are suffering and dying right now.
    But whenever I think of the change that is bound to come, just by numbers alone, I do feel hopeful and optimistic again about the future.

  7. Erlinda said:

    Horace.You seem to not understand the history of this country, which has had and continues to have a very long, sometimes felicitous, most of the time exploitative, relationship with Mexico. These two countries have been interdependent for almost two centuries. What any immigration scholar worth her salt will tell you is that migration streams today flow from developing countries to post-industrial countries with which they have historical political and economic ties. Perhps you ought to do some research on the effects on NAFTA upon Mexico’s economy and how that treaty, which benefits the United States, displaces workers in Mexico and forces them to come searching for work in the country that most glaringly exploits the recources in Mexico. “Illegal” immigration is a by-product of free market globalized economic practices which have unleashed an international labor force that has become an economic sector in its own right. Just trash talking immigrants isn’t going to address the phenomenon of undocumented immigration which our global economic and political policies has CREATED.

  8. Evelyn said:

    I agree with you 100% Laura. That is why it is imperative that Americans be made aware of exacally who and what is behind the demonization of hispanics in general and immigrants who happen to be Hispanic, and the lies fueling the immigration debate.
    I know that by exposing our government’s shady foreign political practices of intervening in other governments business, the trend is turning and people are getting a fair understanding of the consequences of letting our government leave people from other countries unable to support themselves.
    It seems that 2008 in the first year that the majority of Americans are really aware of how broken our immigration system really is.
    This year Americans also have a wide array of websites that lead to credable sources citing statistics on how immigration and immigrants affect our economy and our lives. This has exposed most of the misinformation and lies spread by those few souls who simply hate people of color.
    The irony is that time has been the enemy of those who dont want Hispanic immigrant in the U.S., because when they forced the Republican party to abandon their support for CIR they shot themselves in the foot.
    Had CIR passed, out of status immigrants would have stopped coming when jobs dried up for immigrants without one of the Biometric cards CIR called for to gain employment. Immigrants who did not possess one of these cards would not have been able to find a job. Left without options, they would have had to leave, and as word got out others would not have come.
    As things stand now, with de-facto amnesty installed by those who are against CIR, the nation added about half million immigrants in 2007, down from more than 1.8 million the year before because of a looming recession, according to estimates released by the Census Bureau.
    Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, facing intense political pressure to toughen enforcement, removed 221,664 illegal immigrants from the country over the last year, an increase of more than 37,000 — about 20 percent — over the year before.
    That still adds a quarter million immigrants out of status to the U.S. every year.
    Irma said she guessed “no one will listen us until we
    control the vote in California, New Mexico, Texas, and New York.”
    I would add Chicago to her list.
    It’s ironic that those who didnt accept CIR are helping this happen!

  9. Evelyn said:

    Sandra said
    I would really like to see Mexico prosper economically and therefore their citizens remain in their homeland. Both of our governments however, have a vested interest in greed rather than serving its citizens. Both the citizens of the U.S. and Mexico need to make the necessary changes in their governments to put a halt to their self-serving interests.
    E
    Excellent Sandra! it’s good to see you are placing blame where blame is due.
    I couldn’t agree with you more. We should all work to put pressure on our next president to renegotiate NAFTA. Bring some of the jobs home. Tax the heck out of businesses that want to offshore American jobs. Dont flood Mexico with cheap corn putting farmers out of business.
    Obama has said he will do this, if he doesent hold his feet to the fire.
    Chuck Baldwin doesn’t have a chance of winning.
    McSame will be just like Bush, if Palin should get in then we are really up a creek!
    She doesent have a clue, and can’t seem to find one.
    Your thoughts?

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