In the last post I wrote about what happens to people once they’re deported. I realized that I’ve never examined on this blog why people leave in the first place.
Studies of migration always consider pull and push factors. With migration to the US, the pull factor is obvious: jobs, which exist, in contrast to parts of Mexico and Central America, and jobs that pay hourly wages which often exceed the daily wages available to workers in Mexico and Central America. The main push factor is the inverse of the pull factor. Too few jobs and too-low incomes. However, there are a few other push factors that were not as personally obvious until I lived in central Mexico and now on the U.S./Mexican border.
One push factor comes from the inadequacy to date of Mexico’s development policy. Recognizing that remittances are Mexico’s third income earner after petroleum and tourism, a federal program called 3×1 matches remittances that are oriented towards social or community purposes. This is pragmatic, but doesn’t raise education levels (still really low in Mexico with most people not completing high school) or generate job opportunities in Mexico. Admittedly other government programs focus on job creation but these programs thus far have had limited success.
There’s another factor that’s personally upsetting. There is a built up picture in many parts of Mexico of the US as an Eden and of the trip to the US as a rite of passage for young men, a sort of adventure to prove that you’re tough. It is true perhaps even in a time of crisis that wages in the US are higher, but as I’m learning through conversations with deportees, the mystique often turns into disillusionment when immigrants arrive to a racist country that violates their rights and where they lack the support of loved ones back home. A friend of mine wrote his college thesis about the devastating effects of parent migration on children’s attitudes, school performance and job prospects. It’s hard to grow up without a mom or a dad.
Migrants have all the right in the world to come and seek better opportunities but this is not a sustainable solution. What we need are initiatives that create opportunities for people in Mexico, Central America, and the world over, and not just in the USA. People should be able to do well for their families by bringing the bacon home, in person, and not through wire transfers.