Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

For Mexicans Seeking to Cross the US Border, It's Not Just about Jobs Anymore

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

For Mexicans Seeking to Cross the US Border, It's Not Just about Jobs Anymore

Article excerpt

New data about Mexican immigration to the United States find that the evaporation of jobs during the US recession has done little to dissuade millions of Mexicans from wanting to move across the border amid growing signs that many Mexicans are motivated to leave home not by the lure of higher wages but by fears for their safety.

To be sure, economic opportunity is still the main driver behind Mexican immigration. That's meant the overall number of Mexican's in the US has shrunk slightly in the past year as construction came to a standstill and suburbanites put their gardens at the bottom of their priority lists.

But an expected wave of reverse migration, in which unemployed Mexicans would stream back home to their cities and villages, has been more like a trickle. New US census data shows only a slight decline in the US foreign-born population in 2008. And a new study by the Pew Research Center shows that one in three Mexicans - about 35 million people - would head to "el norte" if they could.

On top of the traditional economic reasons, a growing number of Mexicans feel unsafe in their own country, particularly wealthier citizens who are targets of kidnap gangs and other forms of crime.

Surveys have shown over the past decade that the main motivation for immigration by Latino populations is overwhelmingly economic, followed by family reunification. But the violence raging across the country, where more than 13,000 have been killed in drug-related violence since Mexican President Felipe Calderon took office in late 2006 and dispatched the military to fight drug gangs, is also pushing people across the border.

"There is no question that it is happening ... and it is extensive compared to what happened in the past," says Josiah Heyman, a border expert at the University of Texas at El Paso. At least along the border, many of those moving out of security concerns are from the upper and middle classes, Mr. Heyman says. "It is not that insecurity doesn't affect poor Mexicans in the countryside. But people who can pick up and leave the country in response to crime are people who have money."

Drug crimes

Mexico's Attorney General's office says that 90 percent of victims in drug-related homicides are criminals themselves. …

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