Mexican Migration: Perspectives From Both Sides of the Border
As last Friday’s panel discussion on migration across the U.S.-Mexico border was beginning, volunteers at the Institute of Texan Cultures were hard at work bringing in extra chairs to accommodate an overflow crowd.
The panel discussion brought together contributors to the book, “Mexican Migration to the United States: Perspectives from Both Sides of the Border.” The book focuses on the legal frameworks of migrations and their implications: economic perspectives, public insecurity in northern Mexico, how illegal immigration impacts Mexican-American workers, and the future of Mexican workers in both the United States and Mexico.
The book was co-edited by Dr. Harriet Romo and Dr. Olivia Mogollón, co-directors of the UTSA Mexico Center. Following their opening remarks, you’ll hear perspectives from other authors and speakers on the panel (audio is below in the SoundCloud link, and downloadable for later listening).
Dr. Pia Orrenius, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, titled her presentation, “Labor Mobility: A Win-Win for the US and Mexico.” Her audio begins at 28.37 in the SoundCloud file above.
“How we can find a pragmatic solution?” for migration policy from Mexico, asks Orrenius. “We’ve had steady economic growth,” Orrenius points out. “If you listen to the news, you might think the economy is in shambles and immigration is booming. It’s the reverse.”
“The economy is growing while immigration is slowing,” she said, pointing out that illegal immigration from Mexico reached a peak in 2007 and has been in decline. “Unemployment is well past its pre-recession peak. Down to 4.9%. Seven years into an expansion, the U.S. GDP is growing at a rate of 2%. [That’s] steady, but not exciting growth. But when the benefits of moving are high and the costs are low, governments get into the business of stopping immigration. “Immigrants go to where the jobs are,” she explained. Immigrants fill the jobs that natives shun. “They innovate, patent, and start businesses at a higher rate than natives.”
Orrenius favors a temporary worker program. “Why not extend access to this visa for low-skilled workers, and then they could come legally?” she asks. “They could get a letter from an employer sponsoring them.” Orrenius says the visa should also be portable so workers could go from one job to another.
Dr. Jill Fleuriet’s presentation focused on binational health and health care. Her audio begins at 51.46 in the SoundCloud file above.
- “We wrote about the ways that the legal and cultural definitions of person and citizen affect access to health care. How we think about something as broad as ‘mothers’ could directly affect something like birthweight.”
- Dr. Fleuriet’s five-year investigation surveyed 1,100 women about stress and social status during pregnancy. Mexican immigrant women experienced less stress during pregnancy.
- The media’s reporting on the border perpetuates a stereotype that is at odds with reality.
Borderland and Binational Health and Health Care, by Dr. Jill Fleuriet from Nathan Cone
In his chapter of the book, and portion of the presentation, Dr. Agustín Escobar asked: What happens when migrants return to their country of origin? (His comments begin at 1.09.42 in the SoundCloud file above.)
“Mexico has had a difficult relationship with people returning to Mexico. Something similar is happening to what happened in earlier periods in Mexican history,” Escobar pointed out.
“It is the U.S. that dominates what happens in terms of the migration flow.”
In the 1920s, the population of Mexican immigrants in the U.S. grew from 400,000 to 700,000 in 1930. But by 1940, it was back to less than 400,000. Why? Mexico cooperated with U.S. policy of forcibly returning people, and earned a very bad reputation among Mexicans in the U.S. while doing so.
Until 2007, the Mexican population of the U.S. grew very rapidly. Since 2007, the Mexican population has not grown, and has actually fallen. “The change is dramatic,” Escobar said. “We have seen many more forcible returns, but the number of the total returnees is not very high. What makes this population a new one is that they know they will not come back to the States.”
Preview the book below: