In Other Words Mex­i­can Mi­gra­tion to the United States: Per­spec­tives from Both Sides of the Bor­der, edited by Har­ri­ett D. Romo & Olivia Mo­gol­lon-Lopez

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - — Casey Sanchez

For all the ink spilled over im­mi­gra­tion and U.S.Mex­ico bor­der is­sues in this coun­try, we hear pre­cious lit­tle from Mex­ico’s pol­icy wonks on the sub­ject. In this new an­thol­ogy, Mex­i­can re­searchers and pub­lic thinkers crunch the num­bers and draw back the cur­tain on their own coun­try’s es­tranged re­la­tion­ship to its U.S.-bound em­i­grants, as well as the gov­ern­ment’s pol­icy fail­ures and eco­nomic stum­bles that have cre­ated, as one au­thor writes, “the deeply en­grained cul­ture of unau­tho­rized mi­gra­tion.”

For starters, the em­i­gra­tion of Mex­i­can na­tion­als to the U.S., both au­tho­rized and unau­tho­rized, is at a gen­er­a­tional low. Not since the early 1970s have so few Mex­i­can na­tion­als been ap­pre­hended cross­ing the bor­der by U.S. im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties. In 2005, over a mil­lion Mex­i­can im­mi­grants were ap­pre­hended by U.S. of­fi­cials; by 2011, that num­ber was down to 286,000.

Fran­cisco Alba, an econ­o­mist and de­mog­ra­pher at El Cole­gio de Méx­ico, writes that this “will not be a tem­po­rary phe­nom­e­non — the U.S. great re­ces­sion, in­creased U.S. bor­der con­trols, lower fer­til­ity rates in Mex­ico, and in­creased work and ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties for Mex­i­can youth may be caus­ing a longer-term shift in im­mi­gra­tion pat­terns.”

In a good ex­am­ple of the bi­na­tional think­ing this book hopes to foster, Lil­iana Meza González, a se­nior re­searcher with Mex­ico’s fed­eral Min­istry of La­bor and So­cial Wel­fare, and Michael Feil, a re­tired U.S. Army deputy com­man­der who has since con­sulted on a num­ber of U.S.-Mex­ico se­cu­rity ini­tia­tives, col­lab­o­rated on a re­search chap­ter that digs deep into Mex­i­can mu­nic­i­pal records to paint a so­cioe­co­nomic pic­ture of the af­flu­ent Mex­i­cans who em­i­grated dur­ing the coun­try’s drug car­tel wars of the late 2000s.

The on­go­ing narco vi­o­lence — which killed more than 60,000 of the coun­try’s cit­i­zens be­tween 2006 and 2012 — struck ter­ror into the coun­try’s elite, par­tic­u­larly along its north­ern fron­tier, as car­tels be­gan to tar­get priv­i­leged youth for kid­nap­pings in or­der to ex­tort their par­ents for money. But as Feil and González con­clude, “en­vi­ron­ments of in­se­cu­rity may rep­re­sent op­por­tu­nity frame­works uti­lized by po­ten­tial mi­grants but not nec­es­sar­ily by those in great­est dan­ger.”

While the free-fall­ing U.S. econ­omy kept many work­ing­class Mex­i­cans at home dur­ing a time of deadly vi­o­lence, the rel­a­tive safety of liv­ing north of the bor­der was ap­peal­ing to the af­flu­ent Mex­i­cans who had the re­sources to move. This isn’t a pat­tern unique to Mex­ico. Cit­ing pre­vi­ous re­search con­ducted among up­per-class Haitians and Chileans who fled to the U.S. dur­ing times of po­lit­i­cal ter­ror in their home coun­tries, the au­thors write, “Mi­gra­tions as a re­sult of in­se­cu­rity are more preva­lent among peo­ple with higher so­cioe­co­nomic sta­tus who have the re­sources to mi­grate in­ter­na­tion­ally.” Alba also at­tempts to lo­cate Mex­ico’s re­ac­tion to its own re­cent im­mi­grants — the con­sid­er­able vol­ume of Cen­tral Amer­i­can refugees who have been ar­riv­ing in Mex­ico, flee­ing vi­o­lence in their own home coun­tries. “In 2011, Mex­ico en­acted an un­prece­dented em­i­gra­tion law (Ley de Mi­gración) to en­sure hu­mane treat­ment of mi­grants in the coun­try,” Alba writes. The law “rep­re­sents an at­tempt by the Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment to bring con­gru­ency to the way Mex­ico treats for­eign mi­grants and the way it ex­pects other coun­tries to treat its mi­grant cit­i­zens abroad.”

With in­bound Mex­i­can mi­gra­tion to the U.S. at an all-time low, Alba be­lieves it’s a ripe mo­ment for both coun­tries to re­sume the once-promis­ing early-2001 talks of im­mi­gra­tion re­forms be­tween then Pres­i­dent Ge­orge Bush and Pres­i­dent Vi­cente Fox, which were de­railed by the ter­ror­ist at­tacks of Septem­ber 11.

Far from an open-borders ad­vo­cate, Alba be­lieves both coun­tries have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to re­duce unau­tho­rized im­mi­gra­tion as they de­fend the hu­man rights of em­i­grants. For the U.S., Alba be­lieves the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to reg­u­late and nor­mal­ize the yearly in­flux of Mex­i­can la­bor that agri­cul­ture and many other in­dus­tries de­pend upon. For Mex­ico, he ar­gues that the dras­tic slow­down in U.S.-bound em­i­gra­tion will force its gov­ern­ment to reckon with its stag­nat­ing econ­omy and its lack of trans­parency in its po­lit­i­cal and le­gal sys­tems.

The book in­cludes sev­eral fea­tures from Amer­i­can and Mex­i­can-Amer­i­can aca­demics that ad­dress un­doc­u­mented col­lege stu­dents, iden­tity for­ma­tion among fe­male Mex­i­can im­mi­grants, and ac­cess to health care for the un­doc­u­mented. But it is the an­thol­ogy’s en­tries from Mex­i­can pol­icy wonks and im­mi­gra­tion schol­ars that make it stand out in a very crowded field of books on U.S.-Mex­ico im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy and bor­der is­sues.

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