Mexicans Thinking Twice About U.S. Jobs, Survey Finds

Laurence Iliff and Alfredo Corchado, Dallas Morning News, November 27, 2007

Would-be immigrants may be staying home in significant numbers, a Mexican government survey says, a trend that analysts on Tuesday attributed to a crackdown on illegal border crossers, raids at employment sites and a slowing U.S. economy, particularly in the construction industry.

The third-quarter survey, used to determine the employment rate because many workers are off the tax rolls, showed a 30 percent drop from the third quarter of 2005 in the number of people planning to work abroad or to cross the border.

About 76,000 Mexicans were “looking for a job in another country or preparing to cross the border,” according to the survey by the National Institute for Statistics and Geography, or INEGI for its initials in Spanish.

Two years earlier, that number was about 107,500. INEGI pollsters use a formula to make those estimates based on the percentage of Mexicans age 14 and older who said they would seek work abroad. The survey’s overall margin of error is plus or minus 1.5 percentage points.

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In the U.S., some groups opposed to illegal immigration said the numbers show that the crackdown is working.

“Wow!” said Roy Beck, executive director of Numbers USA, an immigration restrictionist group. “That is really big. It is a very good time for attrition through enforcement.”

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Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, another immigration restrictionist group, said the poll falls in line with his organization’s predictions—that harsher conditions for illegal immigrants would lead to less immigration.

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On the Texas-Mexico border, Raul Faustino Reyes, 28, said he is one of the many immigrants wondering whether the relatively high pay in the U.S. is worth the hassle.

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“The coyotes [immigrant smugglers] are too expensive, the crossing is more dangerous than ever and the hatred is scary,” said Mr. Reyes, who sent money to his parents in Chihuahua City to start a ranch. “The gringos will have a hard time without our cheap labor. I think they will see through their own hypocrisy.”

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New jobs at home

Another factor could be an improving job climate in Mexico.

President Felipe Calderón has said that nearly 1 million new jobs have been created so far this year and that such growth—in the medium- and long-term—would reduce immigration.

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Mr. Lund also said would-be immigrants are less likely than in the past to be honest about their plans to travel illegally to the U.S., given the increasingly clandestine nature of the journey.

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Carlos Ordóñez, head of polling for the Mexico City newspaper El Universal, said he knew of no other recent surveys on intentions to migrate to the U.S.

However, he said, INEGI is known for its serious work, and its huge samples would reduce much margin for error.

“INEGI does very good work; it’s one of the indicators that I would take into account,” Mr. Ordóñez said.

The sample size in the latest survey of 120,000 households “is very robust,” he added.

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