Generations of immigrants have headed to the U.S. in pursuit of the American Dream or at least a better life than the one available in their homeland. But, the lingering recession impact on employment has created a change in the flow coming from the south. Mexico is the birth country for the largest number of foreign-born people in the U.S. But, the flow across the Mexico border has shifted and now more Mexican nationals are leaving the U.S. than coming to live here.
The Washington-based Pew Research Center determined that the return migration of Mexican nationals and their families has been higher than migration heading to the U.S. in the past decade. The largest changes came from 2009 to 2014 when approximately 1 million Mexicans (including American-born family members) left the U.S. while about 870,000 came here. The Pew Center report released Thursday notes that the result has been a drop of over 1 million unauthorized Mexican immigrants from 6.9 million in 2007 to about 5.6 million in 2014. The findings are based on U.S. Census Bureau surveys that measure immigrant inflow from Mexico along with data from the National Survey on Demographic Dynamics (ENADID) conducted by Mexico’s chief statistical agency (INEGI) to measure migration back.
While the U.S. economy is rebounding, the job market for low-skilled laborers has not recuperated. So many would-be immigrants know that the grass may not be greener on this side of the border. Through in stricter enforcement of immigration and employment laws, weariness of living under the radar, and other factors also make life harder in the U.S. for illegal newcomers than the environment former immigrants found.
The Pew Center found that 47 percent of Mexican nationals surveyed believe that life in their native country is just as good or even better than what they would find across the border. “I would not say that Mexico has more of a pull,” said Pew research associate Ana Gonzalez-Barrera, who was the study’s author. “But the United States isn’t as attractive” now.
According to data from the Mexican government, a majority of the people who left the U.S. for Mexico between 2009 and 2014 chose to leave on their own accord. The reason cited by 61 percent of the Mexican nationals who returned was a desire to be reunited with their families back home. Only 6 percent said they left to change jobs or find employment and 14 percent said they were deported. The percentage of Mexican nationals citing employment, though, may not reflect an accurate picture – if people had jobs they liked in the U.S., the lure of family back home would probably not be so appealing.
In Mexico, the job market is better than it was a generation ago, helped by the North American Free Trade Agreement. Additionally, the birth rate dropped which also has helped the employment picture.
While the tide has turned and more Mexican nationals have been leaving the U.S. than those coming here, a majority of adults in Mexico believe those who moved the the U.S. lead better lives than those who remained in their birth country. However, a growing number (33 percent in 2014) believe that life is no better in the U.S. than in Mexico; the number who believed that in 2007 was only 23 percent.
Written and edited By Dyanne Weiss
Pew Research Center: More Mexicans Leaving Than Coming to the U.S.
Los Angeles Times: Why fewer Mexicans are leaving their homeland for the U.S.
Washington Post: Family, border dangers keep Mexicans from returning to US
NPR: Mexican Immigration Declining; More Are Returning Than Arriving
Photo of San Jose May Day 01 march for immigrant rights by z2amiller – Creative Commons license