Migration from Mexico, mainly to the US, has fallen dramatically as fewer Mexicans leave their country to look for work abroad amid the global economic downturn, the government said on Thursday.
The net outflow of Mexicans — both legal and illegal — declined by over 50 percent in the 12 months ending in last August, compared with the same period a year earlier, said the Eduardo Sojo, president of the board of Mexico’s National Statistics, Geography and Information Institute.
Sojo attributed the net drop in migration to tough economic conditions abroad motivating Mexicans to stay at home, rather than Mexicans in other countries returning to their homeland.
“There is declining tendency of people going abroad, but we have not detected, up to now, any increase in people returning to the country,” Sojo said.
Sojo also said a recent survey of “leading indicators” suggests that the number of Mexicans planning to emigrate in the future is also dropping. He did not provide details of that survey.
He said the net outflow of Mexicans — those leaving the country minus those returning from abroad — dropped to 204,000 people between August 2007 and last August. That was down from 455,000 for the year ending in August 2007.
The number of returning Mexicans was roughly the same over the two periods, declining slightly to 450,000 by late last year, from 478,000 in the 2007 period.
But the number leaving Mexico fell sharply to 654,000 from 933,000.
The government has said in past years that a majority who leave are undocumented migrants. Its figures are estimates based on quarterly surveys of Mexican households carried out by the institute.
A government survey also shows the number of households in Mexico that receive remittances — the money sent home by Mexicans working abroad, the vast majority in the US — has also fallen to 1.16 million last year from 1.41 million in 2005, Sojo said.
Remittances, Mexico’s second-largest source of foreign income after oil, plunged 3.6 percent to US$25 billion last year compared with US$26 billion for the previous year, the country’s central bank said.
Despite anecdotal reports of migrants returning to Mexico because of the downturn in the US economy and construction sector, experts say the new statistics confirm there has been no large-scale homecoming in Mexico. An estimated 11.8 million Mexicans now live in the US.
“The majority of those who are there are in a family unit, they have relatives there. We know some have children who are in school, some of whom are US citizens,” said Agustin Escobar, an analyst with the Center for Investigations and Superior Studies in Social Anthropology. “There are a lot of reasons for them not to leave.”
“They are going to look for other more temporary or more precarious jobs or rely on their relatives ... rather than just disappear from the United States,” he said.
Experts say there have been wide swings in immigration to the US in the past and that the future trends may depend on US politics regarding the migration issue.
Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, says increased US enforcement appears to have played a role in reducing the flow of migrants, but the current US economic stimulus program could cause immigration to rebound.
“This indicates the need for continued enforcement,” Mehlman said. “Illegal immigrants are sane, rational people. They don’t come unless they believe they are going to get work.”