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Column 103105 Andrade

Monday, October 31, 2005


U.S. immigration – A Mexican point of view


By Enrique Andrade González


In late October, U.S. President George W. Bush signed a bill into law that provides US$7.5 billion to strengthen border security, support the Border Patrol, and improve mechanisms for improved vigilance.  This being part of the groundwork in order to also propose a temporary migrant worker program, largely for Mexicans.


As the ex-governor of a U.S.-Mexico border state Bush has long thought that a program permitting immigration, one with controls, should accompany any toughening of enforcement against migration.  His own Republican Party includes members from the agricultural sector, from construction and other industries, many of whom earn better livings thanks to the availability and low cost of undocumented workers.


Electorally in the U.S., now might be a good time to propose alternatives in an effort to reconcile the wishes of those who are opposed to more undocumented immigration with those who need the workers.  This could also lessen ill will among sympathetic Latino voters, who are becoming progressively more important in each election.


According to Mexican migration specialist Jorge Bustamante, Mexico and the U.S. have conflicting views on these matters.


In the U.S., for example, the view is what forces Mexicans to immigrate are causes customarily based in Mexico – poverty, unemployment, a lack of control, corruption, etc.  And these are generally thought to have negative impacts on the U.S.


But then in Mexico the causes for emigration are seen as an interaction of factors.  First is the labor supply from Mexico, this coupled with the demand for workers in the U.S.  And the effects of the symbiosis are basically thought of as positive for both nations.


Yet beyond the conceptions and misconceptions, the phenomena of migration has both benefited and harmed the two nations.


For Mexico it has palliated unemployment, along with rural area poverty thanks to the remittances sent home by workers – money that according to the World Bank is also helping to improve education and healthcare through private giving and investments.  On the downside, it now seems impossible to return the agricultural sector to past levels of productivity, ironically due to the northbound labor flight and brain drain.


In the U.S., while immigration has been an economic benefit it could also represent security and cultural identity problems.


In Mexico there is a prevailing indifference regarding undocumented workers living in the U.S.  Never are there marches or demonstrations, in Mexico City, in defense of their human or labor rights.  And there are no real political actions underway to improve the plight of those expatriates.


Neither is there an integral government policy acknowledging that Mexico is a leading migrant sending country, or that it is a major recipient of remittances.  As well, events have surpassed the creation of efficient public policies in order to control, channel, and benefit from the situation.


Still, the need to create a Mexican ministry of migration has been discussed for some time.  An agency that would attend not only to Mexicans who emigrate north, but that would also deal with foreigners – mainly from Central and South America – who pass through Mexico, using it as a trampoline to get into the U.S.


It should also be noted that the anticipated U.S. guest worker and residency program has been politically exploited in Mexico, when in reality there is little likelihood of influencing the proposal.  It is a congressional debate in the U.S., and all the Mexican government can do is hope the plan will benefit its citizens.


Since the beginning of the current political campaigns, proposals and offers for help and support of Mexicans living in the U.S. have been growing.  As one example, absentee citizens have already been granted the right to vote for president in 2006, making them a new, difficult and demanding segment of the electorate with votes that will count.


And the expatriate numbers will grow.


A recent World Bank study on Mexican emigration to the U.S. shows it rising not only as a consequence of need, but too due to family ties now in the U.S., and because migrants are finding placement and assimilation ever-easier.


Some of the expected U.S. guest worker proposals will be possible while others will not, and Mexico will have little influence on public policies decided in the U.S.  But Mexico must do whatever possible to bring about a binational migratory control program.


A bilateral plan with border region security and vigilance uppermost, yet with job and residency arrangements taken into consideration, along with things such as social adaptation needs, the so-called brain drain, remittances, and farm production.



Enrique Andrade, a Mexico City-based attorney and business consultant, writes a weekly column for MexiData.info.  He can be reached via e-mail at enriqueag@andradep.com.