My family and I recently returned from our Christmas (Navidad) trip to Mexico.
It was our third Christmas visit since we moved to the United States in 2008.
Each year, at Christmastime, there is a mass temporary migration of U.S.-dwelling Mexicans, who reside legally in the U.S., who drive south to Mexico, then return to the U.S. after Christmas.
When we resided in Mexico we'd travel by car to the U.S. for Christmas vacation. Heading north, we'd encounter Mexicans headed south, driving vehicles laden down with luggage and consumer goods for relatives in Mexico.
Since we moved to the U.S. our situation has been reversed. Now we have joined that long line of cars that heads south before Christmas and back to the U.S. after Christmas.
These border crossings take several hours. There are just so many vehicles belonging to U.S.-resident Mexicans headed back to the U.S.
In a previous article, written before our latest trip, I reported that many Mexicans in the U.S. were afraid to visit at Christmastime due to the well-publicized drug cartel violence going on south of the border.
That of course, worries the Mexican government. After all, the visit of the paisanos (Mexicans living north of the border) is almost like a visit to Mexico by Santa Claus—bringing consumer goods and hard currency.
If U.S.-resident Mexicans are afraid to visit Mexico, and especially to pass through northern Mexico, the region of the country's worst violence, that could hurt the Mexican economy. So the Mexican government advised the paisanos to form convoys to pass through northern Mexico, and said that the Mexican army might even escort the convoys!
We went ahead and made our Christmastime visit. Thank God, the four of us made it safely into Mexico to our destination and back home again.
I was curious as to whether or not there would be fewer paisanos visiting, as predicted. Well, the day we crossed the border, there were so many Mexicans crossing into Mexico that the line I waited in for my car permit was longer than any other I'd waited in before.
The Mexican bureaucrats who processed all the permits were efficient—that wasn't the problem. It's just that there were so many people passing through. It took us about 3 hours. We spent one hour waiting in line in our car, I spent another hour standing in line, and about another hour in the actual permit process.
When I lived in Mexico I had a work permit, but I had to give it up when I ceased residing in Mexico. Now when I visit I just obtain (for a fee) a visitor's permit. That process didn't take too long. What took a long time was waiting for and obtaining the automobile permit. (There's a fee for that too).
Mexico is strict about letting foreign cars into the country. What they're afraid of is people bringing in cars from the U.S. and selling them, thus undercutting the Mexican automobile industry. And it doesn't matter who drives them. An American driving into Mexico with an American car has to get a permit, but so does a Mexican citizen driving an American car into Mexico.
Not only that, but in order to get a car permit to drive a foreign car into Mexico, Mexican citizens have to prove they are legally living in the United States.
Yes, that's right. In order to obtain a car permit in the "temporary importation of vehicles" Mexicans must prove to the Mexican government that they are legally living in the United States. Apparently the Mexican government doesn't trust its own citizens who are illegal aliens in the U.S. when it comes to cars. It is afraid that illegal aliens will sell U.S. cars they bring in Mexico.
Another thing I noticed traveling into and out of Mexico was the great variety of American license plates on the cars. I tried to write down all the states represented by license tags, and my family helped me. We counted cars from 25 U.S. states, including Oregon, Connecticut and Florida. The Mexican Diaspora is no longer confined to the U.S. Southwest.
It's also notable to see what these vehicles are carrying. Most of the vehicles were rather nice, and were often laden down with various consumer goods, including furniture and lots of bicycles. We even saw a few washers. On the return trip though, the cars weren't so loaded down.
As for the cartel violence in Mexico, it's getting worse. In calendar year 2010 the death count due to cartel violence was higher than ever. The year's official death count is 12,456, another source puts it higher, at 15,000 plus. Either way, it's higher than 2009.
The worsening situation has affected our own family's travels. We used to drive on Mexican highways at night, but not anymore. Now we stop for the night. It did make our trip longer.
There were some informal convoys of vehicles traveling together, but I never saw any being escorted by the army.
In the first leg of our trip into Mexico there was a lot of traffic, which was good, so I tried to stay with other vehicles. We also saw some Mexican federal police and soldiers. In later parts of our trip though, we passed through areas with a lot less traffic.
On December 28th, I saw an INM (Mexican immigration bureaucracy) report that, despite the fear of violence, the amount of paisanos visiting at Christmastime nationwide had not decreased. That certainly fit in with my experience when we entered the country.
That doesn't mean however that there was no decrease in particular areas of Mexico. In the Laguna region of northern Mexico, an official reported that visits by paisanos were down by nearly 40% this year.
In the week before Christmas there was an increase (over the previous year) of people entering Mexico through the state of Chihuahua, although many of them were avoiding Ciudad Juarez (Mexico's most violent city) and entering at another border crossing.
You might think that, hearing of all the violence in Mexico, that it's damaged the economy. Nevertheless, there was good news on the Mexican employment front this year.
In 2010, there were 850,000 jobs created in the formal economy in Mexico. It's been calculated that about a million Mexicans enter the work force annually. As of 2007, it was still reported that about a third of those Mexicans entering the work force entered the formal economy, another third entered the informal economy, and the other third emigrated.
That means that in 2010, Mexico nearly closed the gap on job creation for those million new job-seekers. If that growth can be sustained it would be a good thing for us Americans. It would be yet another justification for bringing the era of mass immigration to a close.
Of course, a lot could go wrong yet. The cartel violence, if it continues unabated, certainly could negatively impact Mexico's economy.
Still, I'd like to also report that our family had a good Christmastime visit to Mexico and we emerged unscathed. But the direction the country is going is troublesome. My New Years' wish for Mexico is that somehow, someway, the violence would begin to decrease.
Meanwhile, back in the U.S.A., we need to do what's right for our country. We need to get control of the border, eliminate magnets for illegal aliens, plug up the anchor baby loophole and reduce legal immigration.
There are many factors in Mexico beyond our control and much uncertainty about the future. That shouldn't stop us though from doing what's right for our country.
In the long run, I believe that would actually be better for Mexico as well.
American citizen Allan Wall (email him) recently moved back to the U.S.A. after many years residing in Mexico. In 2005, Allan served a tour of duty in Iraq with the Texas Army National Guard. His VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his Mexidata.info articles are archived here; his News With Views columns are archived here; and his website is here.