U.S. Still Appealing to Mexicans

Nicole C. Brambila, Desert Sun (Palm Springs, California), September 25, 2009

Despite a sluggish U.S. economy that has seen its highest unemployment rates in 25 years, roughly one in three Mexicans would move here, according to a report released this week.

A poll by Pew Global Attitudes Project surveyed the attitudes of adults living in Mexico.

Those findings, one researcher said, suggest that in comparison, the turmoil in Mexico means the U.S. is still an attractive alternative.

“That just highlights the problems they’re facing in their country,” said Juliana Menasce Horowitz, a senior researcher with Pew Global Attitudes Project in Washington D.C.

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Nearly six in 10 Mexicans say those who move to the U.S. enjoy a better life.

A third would move to the U.S. if they had the means and opportunity, even without a visa.

Four in 10 Mexicans say they know someone who left for the U.S. but returned unable to find a job.

Four in 10 Mexicans have friends or relatives living in the U.S. and nearly one in five receive money from relatives in another country.

Nearly half, or 47 percent, know someone who was turned back by U.S. Border Patrol.

The overwhelming majority of Mexicans are dissatisfied with the direction of their country, describing crime, drugs, political corruption and the economy as very big problems. Roughly 83 percent of Mexicans support President Felipe Calderón’s tactic of deploying the army to fight drug traffickers.

Local experts were not surprised by the poll’s results.

“The economy in Mexico is not good, so what are they going back to?” said Juan Lujan, a Latin America expert and dean of off-campus programs for College of the Desert.

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The employment sectors hardest hit–construction and hospitality–typically attract unskilled, undocumented workers.

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With the going price to hire a coyote to smuggle someone across the border topping out at roughly $3,000, Lujan said he suspected that the majority of Mexican nationals here will simply hunker down until the economy recovers.

“For some it’s a question of, ‘I’d like to go back,’ but the dilemma of coming back across the border keeping them here,” Lujan said.

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[Editor’s Note: The Executive Summary of the report “Most Mexicans See Better Life in U.S.–One in Three Would Migrate” can be read here. The complete report is available to be downloaded as a PDF at the same place.]

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