Or is the truth a little more complicated?
The pro-open borders government of Mexico recently made a surprising public admission.
Not surprising for its content, but surprising that they publicly admitted it.
On January 9th, at a press conference in Los Pinos (the Mexican White House), Fox administration spokesman Ruben Aguilar was asked about emigration.
Here is part of what he said,
"In some cases it [emigration] has to do with real problems of poverty, and in others it answers to other types of personal interest. Statistics reveal that a very, very high number of the persons who emigrate to the United Status had work in Mexico. They don't emigrate to get a job, but they emigrate for another series of conditions also of a cultural character, because they hope for a better condition of life despite the fact that they had work here. They aren't going because they don't have work in Mexico." (En algunos casos tiene que ver con problemas reales de pobreza, y en otros responde a otro tipo de intereses de las personas. Las estadísticas revelan que un número muy, muy alto, de las personas que emigran a los Estados Unidos tenían trabajo en México, no emigran por no tener trabajo, sino emigran por otra serie de condiciones también de carácter cultural, porque esperan una mejor condición de vida a pesar de que aquí tenían trabajo, no se están yendo porque no tengan trabajo en México.) [Press conference transcript]
This fits in with a recent report released by the Pew Hispanic Center entitled Unemployment Plays Small Role in Spurring Mexican Migration to the U.S.
Pew's press release begins:
"The vast majority of undocumented migrants from Mexico were gainfully employed before they left for the United States, according to a Pew Hispanic Center report released today. The report suggests that failure to find work at home does not seem to be the primary reason that the estimated 6.3 million undocumented migrants from Mexico have come to the U.S."
It also stated that "Unemployment plays a minimal role in motivating workers from Mexico to migrate to the U.S. Only 5% of the survey respondents who have been in the U.S. for two years or less were unemployed while still in Mexico."
Another interesting tidbit:
"The latest arrivals are less likely to be farm workers and more likely to have a background in other industries, such as commerce and sales."
This all fits in with my own observations here in Mexico. I've known of several Mexicans who had a job but left to work in the U.S. anyway. One of them even owned his own business. Before being called up to go to Iraq, I worked in one of the most expensive private schools in the area. Even there I knew an employee who had a job, but headed north anyway.
These people weren't starving to death. They just wanted to earn more money. Completely understandable—but hardly a justification of open borders.
You can count on the Mexican government, though, to promote emigration no matter what. As I reported in a previous article, Mexico Has No Intention of Decreasing Emigration:
"According to a document issued in November of 2001 by CONAPO, the Mexican National Population Council, even with a decrease in the birth rate and an improved Mexican economy, emigration to the U.S. will not diminish for at least the next 30 years! CONAPO called this emigration "inevitable." Of course what CONAPO really means by "inevitable" is that it doesn't want it stopped."
Mexican emigration is driven by a combination of factors. Part of it is economic. But part of it, as even the Fox administration now admits, is driven by personal and cultural factors.
Much of it is sheer inertial momentum. Mexicans have been conditioned to go north in search of work. They have plenty of relatives and friends who have already made the trip and can help them make theirs. Remittances from Mexicans in the U.S. encourage more emigration. Migration routes are in place. A whole network of smugglers is established on the border.
On the U.S. side, a vast Mexican social network is there to receive them. A vast network of American employers is there to hire them. Add to that the many organizations which encourage illegal immigration and the American government programs that support them.
It all works together to keep the illegal migration train moving.
The really destitute Mexicans are too poor to emigrate to the U.S. After all, it costs money to get to the border and it costs money to pay smugglers. So the really destitute Mexicans stay home, or migrate to shantytowns in Mexican urban centers.
It's common for both proponents of open borders and immigration restrictionists to portray Mexico as more economically miserable than it really is.
Frequently, middle class American tourists cross the border to Tijuana, Nuevo Laredo or Ciudad Juarez. When they see these border towns, some tourists freak out because these border cities don't look like their suburbs back home.
But when you look at Mexico in world context, things don't look so bad. According to the CIA World Factbook, Mexico's GDP per capita is $10,000.
Sure, that's a lot lower than the U.S. ($41,800), but it's higher than the world average of $9,300.
Mexico is a free country. Its citizens enjoy freedom of movement, freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Mexico has free elections and is even now engaged in a presidential election. So let's have no nonsense about Mexicans moving to the U.S. "in search of freedom."
Mexico has problems, but they certainly pale in comparison to those of Iraq, where I just did a tour of duty.
The United Nations has a Human Development Index (HDI) which calculates countries' quality of life based on life expectancy, educational attainment and adjusted real income.
But who rejoices about that? Hardly anybody compares Mexico to Guatemala or Niger. It's always the U.S. they compare Mexico to.
Mexico's per capita income is about a quarter that of the U.S. This means that Mexicans can make more money in the U.S. than in Mexico. Therefore, they want to work in the U.S. It's not that they are starving to death and that only moving to the U.S. will save them. If the U.S.A. didn't exist, Mexicans would have to figure out some other way to make more money.
Mexico's economy could stand a lot of improvement, no doubt about it. But let's put things in perspective. This is not about starving people who will die if we control our own border.
The pseudo-humanitarian argument is simply designed to make Americans feel guilty so they'll support open borders. Not only is the argument misleading, it leads to policies that are harmful to Mexico. (See my previous articles "Does Emigration Really Help Mexico?" and "Deadbeat Dads Don't Stop at the Rio Grande.")
Now even the Mexican government has admitted it: Mexican emigrants will not all die of starvation if we don't let them in.
What about the Bush Administration?
American citizen Allan Wall lives and works legally in Mexico, where he is married to a Mexican woman and has two children. He serves six weeks a year with the Texas Army National Guard, in a unit composed almost entirely of Americans of Mexican ancestry. His VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his FRONTPAGEMAG.COM articles are archived here; his website is here. Readers can contact Allan Wall at firstname.lastname@example.org.