- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Mexican migrants to the United States find employment with ease, although of those who arrived in the last two years seven out of 10 don’t speak English and 82 percent have no U.S.-issued identification, according to a survey released yesterday.

That represents a marked change from previous years. Among those who came to the United States 15 years ago, 59 percent could speak “a lot or some” English and 83 percent had U.S.-issued identification.

Failure to find work at home is only a minor motivation to cross the border, the survey from the Pew Hispanic Center found. Only 5 percent of those who arrived here since 2003 were unemployed in Mexico, according to the findings, which are based on responses of 4,836 workers in six cities from July 2004 to Jan. 2005.

“Underemployment, not unemployment” inspires them, along with their “perceptions of opportunity,” the survey stated.

“Migrants have little trouble finding work,” said research director Rakesh Kochhar yesterday, who said that border enforcement is not a significant deterrent and that new arrivals “easily make transitions into new jobs.”

An estimated 6.3 million undocumented Mexican workers are living here; the figure rises to 10.3 million if children and other family members are taken into account. About 300,000 enter the United States each year, according to the District-based group.

Employment interests are changing among undocumented workers. Among those who arrived in the United States 15 or more years ago, 14 percent became agricultural workers. That figure has dropped to 8 percent among those who have been here two years or less. The percentages also have dropped for those choosing domestic service or cleaning/maintenance jobs.

With higher salaries, construction work has seen the biggest increase: Previously, 15 percent worked in the field; that figure has risen to 24 percent. The survey found that 17 percent of those in construction make more than $500 a week while 20 percent make more than $400 weekly.

The hospitality industry also is a draw. Previously, 16 percent worked in hotels and restaurants. That figure has risen to 20 percent.

Newly arrived workers tend to be better educated than their predecessors. Among those who came to the United States in 1990 or before, 28 percent had attended secondary school or received vocational training. That figure is 43 percent among those here two years or less.

The survey also found that 80 percent of the respondents already have relatives in the United States and that referrals from friends or relatives was the most common method of finding employment, cited by 45 percent.

While the data does not concentrate on cultural or emotional motivation to come to the United States, “reunification of families” is a primary incentive, Mr. Kochhar said.

The complete poll is posted online at www.pewhispanic.org.

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