Mexican diaspora gets bigger

New data reported by the Mexican media suggest that emigration to the United States rose sharply in 2007, the first full year of the administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderón. Based on US Census Bureau numbers, Mexico’s National Population Council (Conapo) estimated that 679,611 Mexicans made the move to El Norte last year. According to Conapo, the number of Mexican nationals relocating to the US was up 5.9% from 2006. It was the highest jump in Mexican emigration registered since 2002. The total number of Mexican-born residents living in the US now stands at 11,800,000 persons, or just over 10 percent of Mexico’s population, Conapo estimated.

In 2007 Mexicans confronted stagnating or declining wages, increased joblessness, steep price hikes for tortillas and other basic commodities, and rising public insecurity.

Conapo’s new data provides an important glimpse of contemporary Mexican immigrants in the US. While still a minority, women are fast catching up with men, and now account for 44 percent of all Mexican migrants in this country. Although Mexican immigrants are now found in the remotest stretches of the US, slightly more than 70% reside in four states that have long been immigration magnets—California, Texas, Illinois and Arizona.

Re-confirming another trend, Conapo reported that only a tiny minority of Mexican immigrants, or four percent, work in agriculture. Fifty percent of employed migrants toil in the service sector and another forty percent work in manufacturing, according to Conapo. Overwhelmingly, the typical Mexican immigrant is of prime working age, with 68.6% ranging from 15 to 44 years of age. People aged 45 to 64, meanwhile, account for 20.8% of the migrant population. Fifty percent of Mexican migrants in the US have less than a high school education, Conapo found, while only 5.9% have professional or post-graduate studies.

Poverty continues to pull down the fortunes of today’s migrants. Conapo calculated that employed Mexican migrants earn an average $24,270 per year, though more than a third, or 34.4%, make between $10,000-20,000 annually. An estimated 18.9% of Mexican-born men and 26.3% of Mexican-born women fall below the poverty threshold, according to the demographic research agency. Almost six out of ten migrants lack health insurance.

Various media reports have suggested that fewer Mexicans are making the trek to the United States in 2008. A combination of economic downturn, stricter border controls and anti-immigrant hostility has been cited as the reason for the change. Until now, however, there is little evidence of a large-scale, voluntary return of Mexicans to their country of origin.

Indeed, the same trends that pushed people out in 2007 have deepened in 2008. In the northern state of Chihuahua, for instance, 26,000 people have lost their jobs in the export manufacturing sector hit by the economic crisis in the United States. At the same time, greater numbers of people are reportedly fleeing the country because of kidnappings and narco-linked murders which have left more than 1,000 dead in Chihuahua alone since the beginning of the year.

From Frontera NorteSur, via Newspaper Tree, El Paso, TX

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