Poverty, violence and corruption: Illegal immigrants know there’s no place like home
By Mark Cromer
January 16, 2009
As the jobless rate continues its ascension ever closer to double digits—and there’s every reason to believe the real figure of unemployment, not just those collecting benefits, is already there—the debate over immigration has increasingly turned to whether or not illegal immigrants are returning to their home countries.
Last summer, the Center for Immigration Studies released a report that concluded considerable numbers of illegal immigrants were in fact self-deporting, primarily as a result of stepped-up enforcement measures in the interior and at job sites that made life and employment for them more difficult.
Yet on Wednesday, the Migration Policy Institute released a study that suggests illegal immigrants are not voluntarily returning to their countries in any significant numbers, but rather migrating to other parts of the United States in search of work as they seek to ride out the recession here.
The dueling conclusions from Washington think tanks provide terrific fodder for journalists, politicos and policy analysts to kick around at Happy Hours inside the Beltway, as there is ample fruit in both studies for immigration reductionists and open-border advocates to pick through and throw at each other. But you don’t need a detailed white paper to discern the factual reality of whether illegal immigrants are leaving the U.S. in any significant numbers.
No, you only need to take a look at where it is they would be returning to, and from where it is they are leaving, and your common sense will answer it much faster and more conclusively than either study.
For illegal immigrants, their worst day in America is quite likely to be far better than their best day in Mexico; an axiom that extends far beyond job opportunities.
In Mexico, the failed state that provides the vast majority of illegal immigrants to America, the average daily wage for a worker is somewhere around $15; and that’s when jobs can be found. In the United States, panhandlers can clear that in a morning; and the federal minimum wage here means a worker makes that in just over two hours.
In Mexico, the narco-cartels have launched a wave of violence and terror attacks—including hundreds of beheadings—that claimed more than 5,000 lives last year; making the country one of the most dangerous democracies on the planet. Thousands of rogue and compromised Mexican police working for the cartels have been dismissed. In the U.S., violent crime continues to decline in most areas.
In Mexico, endemic corruption pervades virtually every facet of Mexican life, polluting the most benign bureaucratic processes—from paying a ticket to getting a simple permit from City Hall—turning them into bribery-fueled shakedowns of the average Mexican. In the U.S., the average American has never had to pay a bribe in their life, let alone on a weekly schedule.
In Mexico, the government provides a public school education through the sixth grade, which amounts to about a third grade education by U.S. system standards. In America, illegal immigrants help themselves to a K-12 public education on campuses that provide subsidized (or what they consider “free”) breakfasts and lunches, as well as daycare for their toddlers and English classes for the parents.
In Mexico, a sweeping range of quality of life indicators, from access to reliably clean running water, adequate sewage service and the availability of electricity in even semi-rural regions are still mired in Third World conditions. In America, these haven’t been fundamental issues for the vast majority of our citizens since the end of World War II.
In Mexico, access to quality healthcare is severely limited and largely unavailable to most of its citizens. In America, illegal immigrants are provided taxpayer subsidized prenatal care, delivery, and a host of other non-emergency medical treatments, including vital organ transplants.
These assessments are at the root of what so many Mexicans have candidly said as they are caught trying to cross into the United States illegally, voicing a level of bitter despair that far transcends fluctuating employment trends.
There is no hope for them in Mexico, they admit. There is no future for them there.
It doesn’t take an exhaustive study to conclude it’s delusional to suggest that any significant number of illegal immigrants in the United States—a population that may well exceed 25 million men women and children—is willing to voluntarily return to the country that they risked humiliation, extortion, dehumanizing brutality, kidnapping and even death in a merciless desert in order to escape.
During the mass street demonstrations by millions of illegal immigrants and their supporters that swept across the nation in the spring of 2006, amid all the Mexican flags and chants of ‘Si Se Puede!’ were plenty of signs and banners that got right to the point: “We’re not going anywhere!”
At least voluntarily, they’re not.
Mark Cromer is a senior writing fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization.