A Daily news digest by Jasper van Santen

Young men in Mexico say the US no longer offers them a better future -guardian.co.uk

In Economy, News on April 26, 2012 at 15:08

mexico border immigration

Young men in Mexico say the US no longer offers them a better future 

 

In a typical year, the young men in this agricultural region of western Mexico would have made the journey north to America. But not this year or for this generation: a better future across the border is a promise they no longer trust.

“For years, we dreamed of America, but now that dream is no good,” says 18-year-old Pedro Morales, sitting in the elegant Spanish colonial square of Comala under the shadow of the spectacular Volcan de Fuego. “There are no jobs and too many problems. We don’t want to go.”

In an historic shift, the tide of immigration from Mexico to the US has stalled. Villages that were empty of young men are now full. A report published by the Pew Hispanic Center this week confirmed what was already anecdotally clear: the largest wave of immigration in US history has stalled and is now close to slipping into reverse.

Between 2005 and 2010, 1.4 million Mexicans immigrated to the United States, less than half the number that migrated between 1995 and 2000. At the same time, the number of Mexicans who moved to Mexico over the same period rose to 1.4 million, double the number over the previous five years.

Other research groups in the field say the narrowing gap in wages and relative costs of living between Mexico and the US, as well as improving education standards in Mexico, has tipped the calculation back.

“The great migration of the past five decades has been slowing for a decade,” says Doug Massey, founder of the Mexican Migration Project at Princeton University. “We’ve been at a point of stasis since 2009.”

On the US side, election year tough-on-immigration rhetoric has obscured the subtleties of the US-Mexico relationship.

But in Mexico, increased border controls on the US side, as well as controversial anti-immigrant legislation passed in states like Alabama and Arizona, are only overt signals that the US may have entered a period of sustained hostility toward its southern, economically vital neighbour.

Potential migrants say the border is not itself a dissuading factor, but racial discrimination and hostility, efforts to deny employment, education and healthcare are, as is increased exposure to arrest and deportation.

“The reason they’re coming home is because they have no options, no papers, and the laws are more aggressive,” says Fernando Morett, a shopkeeper in the coastal town of Chiutlan. “It’s complicated, and people are debating it. If they don’t have friends in the US and they have to pay to cross the line, it’s not worth it.”

For Mexicans already in the US, the decision to return is still fraught with uncertainty. “But at least here they have the option of food and shelter, and they suffer less than in the US,” says Morett.

Between 2005 and 2010, the same number of Mexicans entered the US as left it. Photograph: Carlos Barria/Reuters

The turnaround is striking. While studies that show migrant workers are net economic contributors and form the bedrock of construction, farming and catering during boom years, there is evidence the crackdown is creating a new underclass.

 

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