Officials: Immigrants Who Left Returning

David Olson, Press-Enterprise (Riverside, California), October 20, 2010

With signs of economic recovery growing, some immigrants who left the Inland area for their homelands after losing their jobs are returning to the United States, Mexican officials and leaders of local immigrant-assistance groups said.

U.S. unemployment is still high, but hope is rising, said José Mendoza Morfin, municipal president of Cotija, Mexico, the hometown of an estimated 2,000 Inland immigrants.

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But migrants are cautious, Mendoza said. Some are returning to different regions than those they left, choosing to bypass high-unemployment states like California for places with more jobs, he said. Others are returning alone, leaving families behind in Mexico until the economy improves further, he said.

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Nationally, the number of people who illegally crossed the border plummeted from an estimated 850,000 each year in the first half of the decade to about 300,000 annually from March 2007 to March 2009, according to a September report by the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center. The number of illegal–undocumented–immigrants living in the United States declined from its 2007 peak of 11.8 million to 10.8 million in 2009, according to U.S. Department of Homeland Security estimates.

FEWER PEOPLE HEADED SOUTH

But Inland immigrant-rights advocates said it has been months since they heard of families returning to Mexico for economic reasons.

Some Riverside County schools saw an unusually high number of Latin American and Asian immigrant parents pull their children out of school during the 2007-08 and 2008-09 academic years to return to their homelands, said county schools Superintendent Kenn Young. Last academic year, relatively few parents did so.

“The exodus appears to have stopped,” he said.

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Some immigrants may be moving to other states. Undocumented immigrants are more likely to relocate–whether abroad or within the United States–to look for work because they are ineligible for unemployment and other government benefits and because they are less likely to have strong roots in an area, said Karthick Ramakrishnan, an associate professor of political science at UC Riverside and an expert on immigration.

Even before the recession, illegal immigrants were increasingly settling outside California and other traditionally immigrant-heavy states, opting for states that previously had few immigrants.

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{snip} [One] reason more undocumented immigrants did not return to their homelands during the recession is because increased border security would have made it more expensive and difficult for them to cross back into the United States later.

It’s also why some migrants who returned to Mexico aren’t coming back to the United States.

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PLANNING TO STAY IN MEXICO

Some immigrants who returned to Mexico because of the U.S. economic crisis say they have no desire to go back to the United States.

Albertano Hernández Castro, mayor of the small Michoacán town of Juárez, said jobs in the guava fields surrounding his town are plentiful and, even though they pay much less than U.S. positions, the cost of living–including often-rent-free housing–is lower.

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