Some Mexicans Leaving US, Planning Never to Return

Ivan Moreno, AP, December 15, 2008

After going months without a full-time job, Daniel Ramirez has decided it’s time to return to family in Mexico.

Vicenta Rodriguez Lopez says she can’t afford to live in Colorado any more because her husband was deported.

Roberto Espinoza is going back, too. After 18 years as a mechanic for a General Motors dealership in Denver, his work permit wasn’t renewed and he didn’t want to remain in the country illegally.

All are leaving Colorado in time for Christmas—joining a traditional holiday migration that will number almost 1 million people, says Mexico’s interior ministry. But they have no intention of returning to Colorado, a place that promised prosperity.

Layoffs, dwindling job opportunities, anti-immigrant sentiment and the crackdown on illegal immigrants are forcing hard choices on many Mexican nationals in Colorado. Though not an exodus, some are returning to a nation they haven’t seen in years.

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Mexico’s consul general in Denver, Eduardo Arnal, said more people like Ramirez are going home for good.

He cites a rise in applications for import tax exemptions by Mexican nationals bringing home their belongings. The consulate hasn’t compiled statistics for 2008 but says it receives about three applications a day, compared to one per week in 2007.

“We’ve seen an increase in this service, which implies that there’s a tendency among a larger number of Mexicans who are returning home definitively,” Arnal said in an interview in Spanish.

Nationally, 1,809 Mexican immigrants filed for the exemption between January and August, compared to 1,447 the same period last year—a 25 percent increase, according to Mexico’s foreign affairs ministry.

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An estimated 243,253 Mexicans lived in Colorado in 2007, down from 254,844 in 2006, according to the U.S. Census. The state’s construction industry, a traditional source of employment for Mexicans, is contracting, and University of Colorado economists expect the state to lose 11,200 construction jobs next year.

Nationally, remittances to Mexico are down, as is Mexican emigration to the U.S.

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Mexico’s National Statistics and Geography Institute estimates that 814,000 Mexicans emigrated to the U.S. in 2006, compared to 1.2 million in 2007.

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Camacho [Gustavo Camacho, 43, who works for a firm digging trenches for electrical cables in Denver], who is from Jalisco, has been here twice, from 1999-2003 and again since 2005. The first time, he saved enough money for a house in Jalisco. This time, he has enough to start a business—either a car repair shop or selling food on the street.

He wants his six children to grow up in Mexico, where he thinks family values are stronger.

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