The women of Tecalpulco, Mexico, want the U.S. government to enforce its immigration laws because they want to force their husbands to come back home from working illegally in the United States.
They have created an English-language Web page where they identify themselves as the “wetback wives” and broadcast their pleas, both to their men and to the U.S. government.
“To the United States government — close the border, send our men home to us, even if you must deport them (only treat them in a humane manner — please do not hurt them),” it reads.
In poignant public messages to their husbands, the women talk about their children who feel abandoned, and worry that the men have forsaken their families for other women and for the American lifestyle.
“You said you were only going to Arizona to get money for our house, but now you have been away and did not come back when your sister got married,” one woman writes to a man named Pedro. “Oh how I worry that you have another woman! Don’t you love me? You told me you love me.”
It’s a stark reminder of an often forgotten voice in the U.S. immigration debate — the wives, children, parents and villages left behind as millions of workers come to the U.S., many of them illegally. The plea also underscores the dual effects of migration on Mexico: Its economy needs American jobs as an outlet for workers, but determined, able-bodied workers get siphoned out of Mexico.
More than 10 million Mexican-born people, or nearly one out of every 10, was living in the United States in 2005. And as a percentage of the work force it’s even higher: One in seven, or 14 percent, were here, according to the Migration Policy Institute. The institute said 77 percent of Mexican workers in the U.S. were younger than 45, and 70 percent were men.
Villages devoid of men between 20 and 50 are common in many parts of the country. The stories of single mothers struggling to raise their children are just as frequent.
The women of Tecalpulco have come up with one way to cope. They run an artists’ cooperative to sell traditional-style jewelry, including through the Internet. The page where they make their personal pleas, www.artcamp.com.mx/venga/, is a part of their Web site.
One of the women writes to “Ruben” telling him their children haven’t seen him in three years and ask where he is.
“I know we agreed you should try your fortune in the United States, but I didn’t know that it would be so lonely and that you would be gone for such a long time, please return to us,” she writes.
Mexican officials are aware of the social and economic consequences to their towns and villages. But businesses and government officials on both sides of the border also acknowledge a sort of grand bargain — the U.S. gets cheap labor, while Mexico has an outlet for its unemployed, who in turn send cash back home.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon in December, while visiting Nogales on the U.S.-Mexico border, said his country needs more foreign investment to try to keep jobs at home.
“The generation of well-paid jobs is the only long lasting solution to the migration problem,” he said, according to the Associated Press.
But for now, Mexico is also addicted to the influx of cash. In 2006, Mexican workers in the United States sent $23 billion back to their families in Mexico, an amount that rivals Mexico’s foreign income from oil sales.
Steven Camarota, research director for the Center for Immigration Studies, which backs less immigration and a crackdown on illegal aliens, said the women’s stories show that the huge migration flow is “very disruptive to the lives of those other countries.”
He said it also proves that the men aren’t fleeing poverty.
“These women would not be asking their husbands to come back if they themselves were starving,” he said. “It’s really more of people wanting more, a better life. It’s perfectly understandable. But that’s different than these people fleeing such desperation there’s no way you could enforce the law.”