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El Universal, Mexico

Zero Migration

By Enrique Berruga Filloy

Translated By Brandee Bilotta

13 October 2011

Edited by Andrew Schmidt

Mexico - El Universal - Original Article (Spanish)

“For the first time in 60 years, the net traffic of Mexicans to the United States has been reduced to zero and perhaps even shows a negative balance.” Princeton University established this in its most recent study of immigration. This news has profound structural implications for bilateral relations. The study’s repercussions with regard to the presidential campaign in the neighboring country should be lethal for those who try to use immigration as an instrument to obtain votes from the more radical sectors of the United States.

How was this discovery validated? Since 2009, Princeton’s Mexican Migration Program has undertaken thousands of studies among Mexicans in the United States. In these three years, none of the civilians interviewed indicated that they would be crossing the border for the first time. That is to say, migrants had already been in the neighboring country. The net result is precisely that immigration has not increased: As the study shows, there has been no growth or even a decrease, if one considers that many civilians have returned to Mexico without intentions to cross the border again.

The reasons that explain this phenomenon are on both sides of the border. From the American side, the decrease in migratory tides is associated with the economic recession that gestated in 2008 and for now has reduced the demand of Mexican labor, especially in the field of construction. While the voice keeps spreading that there are no job offers, civilians simply don’t risk life and patrimony to cross to the other side. The second explanation this study reports is the extreme anti-immigration measures that have been applied in states like Alabama and Arizona. The action of the police, under whatever circumstance and above all basing it on people’s racial profile, which can require the presentation of immigration documents, has not only provoked civilians to leave these two states for others in the U.S., but simply prevented them from crossing into the north.

The reasons found in the study on the Mexican side are perhaps more interesting. Fewer Mexicans look to go to the United States because levels of well being have increased. In the last ten years, Mexico has recorded higher access to education and health services. Only 3 percent of the population lives in homes with dirt floors. And lastly, the salary differential between the U.S. and Mexico has gone from being an average ten times higher to only four times higher.

The concrete fact is that in the last two years, detentions of undocumented persons on the border have fallen by 70 percent. Because of this, while the rhetoric of some politicians and North American extremist groups keeps calling for reinforcement of the border patrol, the use of unmanned planes and the erection of walls, reality has already surpassed them.

Understand that neither of the two governments is taking advantage of the revelations of this study. From the U.S. side, the government could launch a totally new initiative of immigration reform, for now they could regularize those foundations that have already been found residing there. They can’t utilize the argument that giving amnesty to actual immigrants will bring a wave a new illegal crosses. They already aren’t crossing. A measure of this type could stabilize immigration now and forever, regulating future waves with work visas. The second point is that, after a 60-year discussion, it has been revealed empirically that economic and social development from the Mexican side is the best way of dealing with the immigration phenomenon. The support and investment that the U.S. does in Mexico should form part of its public politics. Furthermore it could be great business for Washington, given that Mexico imports more goods and services from the United States than the four most powerful European economies combined.

For Mexicans it could be the propitious moment to reposition the immigration agenda, actively stimulate a regularization mechanism for civilians, and insist that the prosperity of Mexico is in the best interest of the United States. It could liberate the 52 consulates that Mexico has in the U.S. in charge of protection affairs, to put forward fully the promotion of our economy and our culture. It would have to insist on the growth of Mexico not only to help with the U.S.’ social and security worries, but also to directly contribute to their own economic expansion. It is the moment to design new architecture for bilateral relations. The initiative, inevitably, should proceed from the Mexican side. For a project of this importance, it’s never too late in a six-year term.



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