- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 27, 2002

The steady, massive flow of legal and illegal Mexican immigrants in the United States cannot be stopped and won't decrease dramatically even if the Mexican economy blooms, U.S. and Mexican demographers say.
"The migratory phenomenon between Mexico and the United states is structural and permanent," concludes a study by Mexico's National Population Council, a ministry of the Interior agency.
The report, "Migration: Mexico-United States," concludes that by 2030, the Mexican-born U.S. population will at least double to 16 million to 18 million regardless of improvements in Mexico's economy.
"Diverse factors such as geographic proximity, the asymmetrical and growing economic integration and intense relations and exchanges between both countries make the creation of migratory flow inevitable," it says.
The council's report was published in Mexico in November but was ignored in this country until David Simcox, board chairman of the nonprofit Center for Immigration Studies, produced an analysis and summary of the document. Mr. Simcox made a copy available to The Washington Times last week.
The document provides a statistical foundation for Mexico's insistence that the United States ease immigration restrictions for Mexicans while creating a "guest worker" program for Mexican laborers and "regularizing" the status of illegal border-crossers now in the United States.
Prominent U.S. demographers who study Mexican immigration were questioned about points the study discussed. Although they have not yet seen the report, they tend to agree with its general observations.
Some celebrate it. Marcelo M. Suarez-Orozco, a Harvard Graduate School professor and author who heads the university's Immigration Project says, "Without reference to politics and considering only the scientific framework, Mexico and the United States are Siamese twins. Immigration from Mexico is our history and our destiny. That is the basic dynamic of the situation seen after 20 years of study."
Demographer Carl Haub of the Population Reference Bureau says, "It's reasonable to expect that the influx [of immigrants from Mexico] will continue. It's hard to see any reason that it wouldn't."
It's widely believed that Mexicans flock to the United States principally because they are seeking a job and want to pursue the "American dream." So by most accounts, a widespread rise in the pay of Mexican workers, accompanying a major, large-scale improvement in Mexico's economy is one thing that would reduce the number of Mexicans crossing to the United States.
But Mexico's population council says, "The most favorable economic conditions will express themselves in only slightly lower flows in the constant rate of migration," even if there is a simultaneous fall in the Mexican birthrate.
Mr. Simcox has been studying Mexican immigration since 1986, and he says that given "the most favorable scenarios for Mexico's economy and U.S.-Mexican wage ratios … annual emigration in 2030 will still aproach 400,000 a year, 8.3 percent to 11.4 percent higher than the 370,000 estimated for 2000."
That rings true, Mr. Suarez-Orozco explains, because half the immigrants come to the United States to be with family. "Someone said the formula for a happy life is based on love and work. That's why Mexicans migrate love of family and to get a good job."
It's clear that as the number of Mexicans in the United States increases, the number of family members wishing to join them will too. But there are other reasons Mexicans move north.
"Immigrating to the United States or moving back and forth across the border is ingrained in Mexican culture. Children in some parts of Mexico are raised with the understanding that they will grow up and work here," Mr. Simcox says.
Moreover, Mexico's poulation council reports, illegal immigrants don't give up after a failed border-crossing attempt. Seven in 10 deportees intend to "try a new crossing in the next seven days … a proportion significantly higher than observed in 1993-1994, when the figure was 59 percent."
According to the report, most illegal immigrants "return to their effort within days or hours," and most consider "forced returns just part of the difficulty of the crossing."
Mexicans' migration is not new. Mexicans roamed freely into and out of what is now U.S. territory before the United States was organized, and Mexicans have crossed the U.S. border legally and illegally for 100 years. In the first part of the 20th century, the border was almost entirely open. The migration caused little concern then, mostly because most immigrants did not stay in the United States.
Even earlier in the 19th century U.S. employers were happy to have Mexicans trek north for low-wage jobs. Employers still want cheap Mexican labor, and that further encourages would-be Mexican migrants.
For decades the Mexican government has valued the money immigrants send home. In the last decade, Mexican immigrants dispatched more than $45 billion to relatives south of the border. In 2000, they sent $6 billion, about $17 million a day.
"On average, receiving households obtained about $3,000 a year $2,000 in rural households and a little less than $4,000 in urban homes. That equalled a little less than 40 percent of total income" for those families, the national council reported. Mexico is not eager to have that income source diminish.
University of California economist Gordon H. Hanson and Antonio Spilimbergo of the International Monetary Fund point out in a study that repressing immigration works effectively only when the "sending" country clamps down, as the Soviet Union did and North Korea does. The economists say, "International experience has shown that it is very difficult to patrol a border effectively, especially a long border without topographical barriers between two democratic countries."
Tom Ramsack contributed to this report.


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