Wolfsdorf Rosenthal LLP

Mexicans in the United States are returning to Mexico in increasing numbers


Between 2009 and 2014, nearly one million Mexican nationals (including their U.S.-born children) left the United States for Mexico of their own accord. That number is higher than the number of legal Mexican migrants who came to the United States. This increased tendency for repatriation from Mexico to the United States began to take shape during the financial troubles of 2008 in the United States. Although the Mexican National Survey of Demographic Dynamics (ENADID) reported that nearly 61% of repatriated Mexicans returned for the purpose of familial reunification, arguably this mass repatriation, the reversal of a diaspora created by economic conditions, is tied inseparably to the dynamics of the global economy and its inherent social dimensions in addition to the decision to return to be reunited with loved ones. 

With the continual polarization of U.S.-Mexico border politics, stricter enforcement of immigration laws within the United States has contributed to a noticeable drop in the number of Mexican nationals entering the United States. In 2004, U.S. border apprehensions of Mexicans numbered 1,142,807. That figure plummeted to 230,000 by 2014 (Office of Immigration Statistics, 2014). The U.S. Department of Homeland Security reported that between 2009 and 2014, nearly 870,000 Mexican nationals legally entered and achieved legal permanent residence in the United States. Between 1990 and 1999, nearly 2,700,000 legal Mexican migrants entered the United States; from 2000 to 2009, nearly 1,700,000 entered (Office of Immigration Statistics, 2014). The trend is downward. 

Since the economic liberalization of the 1980s and 1990s, Mexico’s role in the international economy, and especially in the North American trade bloc, has grown exponentially. Since the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Mexico’s export value has risen nearly 475%, from US $60.8 billion to US $349.6 billion from 1994 to 2011. While the Mexican economy was certainly hit hard in 2009 by its dependence on the United States as a market for exports, it was not hit nearly as hard as the United States’ economy, and had been steadily improving since the signing of NAFTA. In other words, the economic conditions and opportunities in Mexico had been steadily improving in the years leading up to the 2008 crash, especially as foreign companies began to flood into Mexico. 

Keeping the above in mind, the abysmal economic situation of the United States for migrant workers is illustrated by the estimated 15% drop in remittances sent to Mexico from the United States in the years 2008 to 2009. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that when the unemployment of marginally attached and part-time laborers is included, U.S. unemployment rates reached 16% in 2009 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015). 

The evaporating employment opportunities for migrants in the United States has been supplemented by expanding opportunities in Mexico provided by the influx of foreign capital 

made possible by free trade agreements like NAFTA. Mexico holds the world record for most currently effective free trade agreements. While economic hardship hit all sectors of the United States, the damage was relatively lower in Mexico; historically sought-after remittances to Mexico were not only harder to come by but were becoming somewhat less necessary. Just as the influx of capital brought by NAFTA made possible the conditions under which more Mexicans could return to their own country, more Mexican nationals are likely to return home as new trade agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, continue to advance Mexico’s economy and bring the diaspora home to greater economic opportunity.

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