Mexicans are not fleeing the U.S. economy in droves to return home, says a report released this week by the Pew Hispanic center. After months of speculation last year and dramatic statements from Mexican state and municipal officials, this is the first broad study of whether the recession has caused a huge wave of reverse migration.
“The current recession has had a harsh impact on employment of Latino immigrants, raising the question of whether an increased number of Mexican-born residents are choosing to return home,” the study says. “This new Hispanic Center analysis finds no support for that hypothesis in government data from the United States or Mexico.”
The Pew study cites the Mexican government’s National Survey of Employment and Occupation, which includes data on household members returning from abroad.
“The number of arrivals home has not increased for any year-to-year period since the Mexican survey began in 2006,” the study says.
From February 2006 to February 2007, an estimated 479,000 Mexicans returned home from other countries, mainly the U.S. For the same period in 2007-2008, 440,000 did. For the 2008-2009 period, 433,000 did.
On the U.S. side, the report refers to the Current Population Survey, which includes data on the foreign-born population and their year of arrival to the country.
“There is no indication of substantially higher outflows in 2007 or 2008; estimates for these years are close to average,” the report says.
These figures seem to go against the dire predictions some Mexican officials had issued last year when the American economic crisis was in its most dramatic moment.
Last October, we reported on officials in several states and municipalities who said they expected thousands of returnees and were fearful the returns would endanger the balance in the local economy.
Two months later, we talked to some of those officials and they admitted the much-feared influx had not actually taken place. In fact, they said people were not even coming home for the holidays in normal numbers. “They prefer to stay there (in the U.S.) to see what happens,” one municipal official in Michoacán state said. “They expect it’s going to get better with the new president.”
Although the expected mass reverse migration did not occur, in a reporting trip to the migrant-sending state of Jalisco earlier this year, this reporter found individual cases of recent returnees who had spent bleak months in the U.S. trying to weather the recession until they gave up and came back.
A street vendor in Arandas, Jalisco, told of her two sons, who had come back after spending six years, one of them, and six months, the other, in Aurora, Mich. “They came back a year ago,” she said, “because there’s no work any more and if you’re gonna have a rough time, why stay?”
In the Altos de Jalisco region there was also a general sense that not many people were thinking of leaving for the North any time soon. The woman said her sons worked tending street stands that they took from town to town on market day. “At least, here we’ll always have beans and tortillas,” she said.
Indeed, the Pew Hispanic report says fewer Mexican immigrants are arriving to the U.S.
The inflow began to diminish in mid-decade, and has continued to do so through early 2009, according to an analysis of the latest available population surveys from both countries.
This finding is reinforced by data from the U.S. Border Patrol showing that apprehensions of Mexicans attempting to cross illegally into the United States decreased by a third between 2006 and 2008.