Here’s how it starts:
The deportees stepped off their flight from El Paso looking bewildered — 135 men who had left families and jobs behind after being swept up in the Trump administration’s mounting effort to send millions of undocumented immigrants back to their economically fraught homeland. As they filed into Mexico City International Airport last week, government employees handed them free ham-and-cheese sandwiches, Mexican ID cards and information directing them to social services in the capital. “Welcome back!” a cheerful government worker called out, taking down names and phone numbers.These returnees, reports the Washington Post, had been residing in the United States (illegally) for decades.
Then the men, who had spent as many as 20 years in the United States before being caught and held in detention for several weeks, walked out into a Mexico many of them barely remember, where job opportunities are scarce and worries about the worst inflation in a decade await them.Notice that the article reports on both deportees and “a surge of undocumented immigrants leaving the United States voluntarily”, the latter group being composed of those who self-deported. It really works.
In the wake of new enforcement policies announced by the Trump administration last week that dramatically expand the pool of undocumented immigrants targeted for deportation, Mexico is bracing for an influx of men and women like them. Their arrival — along with a surge of undocumented immigrants leaving the United States voluntarily — promises to transform Mexican society in the same way their departure did.
As has been pointed out here before, it’s not necessary to deport all illegal aliens, as many will self-deport when they see the U.S. government is serious about enforcing the law.
The article reports that “Since President Trump took office in January, the number of U.S. government flights landing in Mexico City loaded with deportees has jumped from two a week under President Barack Obama to three, Mexican officials said. The arrivals include convicted felons but also many without criminal records.”
So how many deportees are arriving to the Mexico City airport daily? According to the article, “About 500 deported Mexicans, including some who had been picked up when Obama was in office, are arriving here daily.”
“Many of these people come not knowing how to speak Spanish,” said Amalia García, secretary of Mexico City’s labor department, which serves as a point of contact for the deportees. “They come feeling very bitter, very ashamed and very hurt.”They should be able to get over it.
More returnees means lower wages for everybody in blue-collar industries such as construction and automobile manufacturing, where competition for jobs is likely to increase, economists say.Wow, so in Mexico a glut of workers brings down wages! Of course, that’s totally different in the United States, where, we are constantly told, the constant arrival of low-wage foreign workers can do nothing but wonders for the U.S. economy and U.S. workers.
Moreover, the loss of remittances from the United States — Mexico’s second-largest source of revenue at roughly $25 billion last year — could have devastating effects, particularly in rural areas.Well, Mexico shouldn’t have become so dependent on remittances.
At the same time, though, there will be more English-speaking Mexicans entering the workforce who’ve honed their skills in the United States, a development that in the long run could position Mexico to be a stronger player in the global economy, analysts say.OK, so that’s a plus.
“A lot of these people ran businesses in the U.S. and did well,” said Andrew Selee, director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington. “In the same way that in the United States we saw a wave of Mexicans who became part of the American culture and changed it, we’re now seeing a wave of Mexicans moving back who are integrating American culture into Mexico.” The Mexican government hopes to tap into that potential — and to diminish the likelihood that deportees will try their luck again across the U.S.-Mexico border, where the Trump administration plans to build a wall.And how about this?
A federal program launched in 2014, called Somos Mexicanos (We’re Mexican), tries to help returning migrants find jobs, start businesses and deal with the emotional trauma many experience after leaving families in the United States.Hey, if you’ve read my articles, you’ve already read about the Somos Mexicanos program. See Is Mexico Ready To Receive Deportees From Trump’s America? SOMOS MEXICANOS Is Already Working On It!
Under the program, arriving deportees receive food, a medical checkup and bus fare to wherever they plan to live in Mexico. Local case managers then connect them to social services and job leads and, in some cases, help with moving their families back.“The first thing that many have in mind is: ‘I want a job,’ ” said Gabriela García Acoltzi, director of the Somos Mexicanos program. “We help them identify other areas where they need assistance.”Then the article goes negative again.
But the government’s ability to provide such services to the tens of thousands of returning migrants expected in the coming years is uncertain. The value of the Mexican peso plunged after Trump took office, prompting worries about the worst inflation in the country since the 2008 global recession. Those fears have heightened as the possibility looms of a trade war with the United States that would affect $1.5 billion in daily cross-border commerce.It’s going to be hard re-integrating the returnees into Mexican life. But, it can be done.
Meanwhile, prices for tortillas, meat and other necessities have gone up in response to the federal government’s 20 percent hike in gasoline prices last month, hitting poorer Mexicans especially hard.
In dispensing government resources to the returnees, García [Somos Mexicanos director] cautioned, “the important thing is to be flexible in what they’re requiring.” At the Mexico City airport, many passengers arrived in the same rumpled clothes they were wearing when U.S. immigration authorities grabbed them. Some wore gray detention center pants after serving time in jail.And check this out…
Not liking their chances here, several of the men made a beeline toward a nearby bus terminal to find a way back to the border. “The situation here doesn’t look good,” said Luis Enrique Castillo, 47, adding that he planned to return to his wife, four children and two grandchildren in Chicago, where he lived for 20 years. Castillo said he was arrested when U.S. immigration officials knocked on his door looking for one of his sons, who had been scheduled for deportation. They didn’t find his son and, after checking his ID, picked him up instead.The article relates the plight of Jose Lopez.
José Armando López García, 50, is trying to make a life in Mexico after being deported about a year ago. He left a wife and five children in Las Vegas after a routine traffic stop revealed he was using a fake driver’s license. López, a professional carpenter, received a $1,260 government grant through the Somos Mexicanos program that allowed him to start a contracting company out of the home he shares near the airport with his 92-year-old mother. The money he makes is barely enough to live on, López said. And his depression deepens when he sees other children, who remind him of his own. “I can’t imagine them living here,” López said, tears streaming down his cheeks. “There’s too much insecurity, and I don’t know how it would work with the schools.”So he’s back with his mom but left his wife and five children in Vegas? Well, why not start figuring out how to get them to Mexico?
Jill Anderson, director of Otros Dreams en Acción (Other Dreams in Action), an advocacy group for former undocumented immigrants who grew up in the United States, said many returning students face problems being admitted to Mexican public schools. The system for transferring U.S. school credits into Mexican schools is rife with red tape, requiring translated transcripts and other proof, which can take more than a year, Anderson said.But it’s not impossible.
Her group has backed legislation to speed up the process, which President Enrique Peña Nieto recently endorsed. But Anderson also noted the resistance here to doing too much to accommodate a population of returning compatriots who rub many the wrong way with their English and their more aggressive American manner. “It really interrupts the economic and social norms of Mexico,” she said. “They speak English, and they’re asking for access to higher education and to employment in ways that their parents were not able to.”Oh, suddenly somebody is worried about “economic and social norms of Mexico” being interrupted? How about the economic and social norms of the United States?
When José Manuel Torres, 23, followed his deported father back from Georgia about five years ago, he was denied admission to Mexico City’s public university system because he lacked proof of graduating from his middle school outside Atlanta — despite having his high school diploma.Jose has a valid point there.
“I told them, ‘Dude, if I finished high school, isn’t it common sense that I went through middle school?’ ” said Torres, speaking in English with a Southern twang. “They said, ‘Yes, but this is the process.’ ”
Torres was hired by an international call center in Mexico City — a growing industry filled with younger English-speaking Mexicans who, as their parents did in the United States, tend to socialize in isolated communities where they resist speaking the language of their new home.Call centers in Mexico are in more compatible time zones than call centers in India.
He left that job, though, and, through a family connection, found another job as a school orchestra stage manager at the private National Autonomous University of Mexico. This has allowed him to take classes in software engineering, his real interest. “This place really beats you up,” Torres said about Mexico. “There are so many circumstances here that constantly keep hitting you, pulling you down, and you’ve got to keep driving through it, grinding and pulling.”OK, now here’s somebody with a positive, long term outlook.
It’s that spirit — forged for many returning Mexicans during years of living illegally in the United States — that may ultimately benefit Mexico, said economist Luis de la Calle.
De la Calle predicted that, in the short term, average wages will drop as more qualified people enter the country to compete for scarce jobs. But the overall economy is likely to expand in the long run when those people start to succeed, he said. “We suffered a cost as a nation by sending those hard workers to the U.S., in the sense that we lost a lot of talent,” de la Calle said. “When they come back to Mexico and they are properly trained, they will make more than a proportional contribution to Mexico.”De La Calle is looking beyond the current difficulties to the future and finds Mexico’s long-term prospects as potentially positive. If handled properly, the return of the deportees can be a positive contribution to Mexico. I hope that it is.