Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Is Mexico Still a Nation?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Is Mexico Still a Nation?

Article excerpt

A survey released last week by the Pew Hispanic Center found more than four in 10 Mexicans are willing to leave their country to live in the US. One in five would risk a dangerous, illegal border crossing. Most surprising, one in three college graduates wants to flee. Before Washington takes up immigration reform this fall, it needs to take a hard look at Mexico's disillusionment.

Already, one in eight adults born in Mexico now lives in the US. And the Mexican economy is kept afloat partially by an estimated $16 billion sent back by immigrants to relatives.

Such numbers reveal a people so fed up with Mexico's dysfunctional politics and stagnant economy that their nationalism is wilting. While more than half of Mexico's 106 million people are officially poor, the Pew survey found an inclination to migrate "evident across a broad swath" of the population.

This wide push to leave is probably now as strong as the pull of higher wages, social advancement, and family connections in the US. And yet, Mexican leaders remain in denial about this propensity for mass exodus.

All this spells trouble for proposals by President Bush and some in Congress to set up a temporary worker program as a way to reduce the burden of illegal migration. The Mexican demand for such US "guest" visas could be, by some estimates, half a million a year. Yet the numbers in the proposals fall far short of that. The US could hardly absorb such a large wave of humanity without further challenges to its civic stability.

In other words, a guest-worker plan is a false promise of ending the waves of illegal border crossings.

The challenges on America's southern flank are only getting worse. …

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