Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

O'Neil analyzes developments in Latin America and U.S. relations in the region.

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Changes in Mexican Migration

by Shannon K. O'Neil
May 11, 2012

A candidate for United States citizenship grips a small American flag during a naturalization ceremony celebrating Bill Of Rights Day in the Federal Hall National Memorial in New York (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters). A candidate for United States citizenship grips a small American flag during a naturalization ceremony celebrating Bill Of Rights Day in the Federal Hall National Memorial in New York (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters).

A recent Pew Hispanic Center report highlights the rather steep declines in the number of Mexicans coming to the United States, as well as the rising numbers leaving for Mexico. Taken together, they show that net migration from 2005 to 2010 reached zero—with inflows and outflows of some 1.4 million individuals (a rough average of 280,000 a year) cancelling each other out. This is a huge migratory shift, and one that reflects many things, including a weaker U.S. economy, a stronger Mexican economy, changing Mexican demographics, rising deportations, and enhanced border security.

Another migratory change has also occurred: of the Mexicans that still come to the United States, many more do so legally. At the start of the twenty-first century, less than 10 percent came with papers. A decade later, it is 50 percent.

The vast majority of these came on “family reunification visas”—spouses, parents, children, or siblings of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.  Others—some ninety thousand in 2011—came on H-visas to work, their professions ranging from engineers to agricultural workers. Ten thousand more came to study. Some two thousand—more than double 2000 levels—came on E-2 NAFTA visas, reserved for investors and business people from countries that are U.S. trading partners. Mexicans also received their highest ever number of EB-5 visas, which require a $500,000 to $1 million investment in a U.S. business, and the creation of at least ten U.S. jobs.

The rise in legal immigration has the potential to alter the political debate, as it lessens the law and order challenges. But some will still be concerned about the role of this large group of immigrants, believing as the late Harvard professor Samuel P. Huntington did, that Mexican immigrants “threaten to divide the United States into two peoples, two cultures, and two languages.” Perhaps a final trend can help allay these worries. In the past decade, one million Mexicans swore their allegiance to the U.S. and became citizens—surpassing all other nationalities—a sure sign of their desire to become Americans.

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  • Posted by dwight huth

    The papers that the illegal immigrants are using and coming into America with should be exchanged for green cards after ten years. Five years after that the same green cards should be exchanged for full citizenship documentation where those carrying a new card called American Citizenship Card would indentify each such person as a legal and Constitutionally Protected American citizen that regardless of where they travel in America they will be considered full Americans and therefore protected by the Constitution of the United States of America.

    Most hate the illegal Mexican….I however see them as a new American Militia fighting against tyranny and oppression that once they become American citizens they will no longer be terrorized or oppressed but will be….Americans.

    Becaue with the illegal Mexican there once flew and Eagle but with the illegal Mexican becoming an American Citizen there now flies two Eagles side by side thus giving the once illegal Mexican status over the other by being called Two Eagles.

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