At this time of year in this tiny rural outpost that sits on a mountainside in Guanajuato State, most able-bodied men are gone. They’re off plucking and cutting chicken in processing plants in Georgia or pruning the backyards of Seattle.
But this year, Pedro Laguna and his wife, Silvia Arellano, are clearing rocks from their yard to prepare a field for corn. They’ve returned home to Tamaula,Mexico, with their four young children, after 20 years in the United States working illegally. Pedro’s cousin Jorge Laguna and his brothers are planting garbanzo beansin the plot behind their father’s home. Their next-door neighbor Gregorio Zambrano is also home: One recent morning he badgered a visiting social worker for funds to start a honey-production enterprise.
Since the Monitor last visited here in 2007, a major demographic shift has transformed this dusty village of 230. Migrants have come home, and with them have come other important changes. In 2007, there was no running water, no high school, no paved roads. A simple water pipeline, installed in February, runs to each of the 50-some homes. On a recent day the first high school class, including eight students ages 15 to 40, was finishing up math homework. And now, the main roads are paved.
“We can turn on the water and wash our clothes,” says Pedro’s uncle, Rodolfo Laguna, who spent 12 years working illegally in a chicken plant in Athens, Ga., before returning home in 2010 after both he and his son lost their jobs.
This is the new face of rural Mexico. Villages emptied out in the 1980s and ’90s in one of the largest waves of migration in history. Today there are clear signs that a human tide is returning to towns both small and large across Mexico.
One million Mexicans said they returned from the US between 2005 and 2010, according to a new dem-ographic study of Mexican census data. That’s three times the number who said they’d returned in the previous five-year period.
And they aren’t just home for a visit: One prominent sociologist in the US has counted “net zero” migration for the first time since the 1960s.
Experts say the implications for both nations are enormous – from the draining of a labor pool in the US to the need for a radical shift in policies in Mexico, which has long depended on the billions of dollars in migrant remittances as a social welfare cornerstone.
“The massive return of migrants will have implications at the micro and macro economic levels and will have consequences for the social fabric … especially for the structure of the Mexican family,” says Rodolfo Casillas, a migration expert at the Latin American School of Social Sciences in Mexico City.
‘Net zero’ migration
While the loud immigration controversy of recent years – with walls erected and sheriffs planning anti-immigrant armies – got the headlines, the powerful migration shift went on largely unnoticed.
Pedro Laguna’s odyssey is a clear and common sign of the reverse calculus on the ground.
At the macroeconomic level, Douglas Massey, founder of the Mexican Migration Project atPrinceton University, has documented what he calls “net zero” migration. The population of undocumented immigrants in the US fell from 12 million to approximately 11 million during the height of the financial crisis (2008-09), he says. And since then, Mexicans without documents aren’t migrating at rates to replace the loss, creating a net zero balance for the first time in 50 years.
Mexican census and household surveys analyzed by Mr. Escobar, who is with the Binational Study on Mexican Migration, suggest migrants leaving Mexico fell from more than a million in 2005 to 368,000 in 2010.
Pedro Laguna contributed to that shift in balance when he moved from Georgia to Tamaula last summer with his wife and American-born children – ages 5, 7, 9, and 11 – after 20 years in the US.
By many measures, the Lagunas were pleased with American life. In their first US jobs – in poultry processing – they earned in two hours what they could earn in a day in Mexico (less than $15). They liked the rigorous schools, and their kids excelled – today their bookshelves are full of trophies from science, reading, and karate contests.
But with both parents working long hours, and on different shifts, “we were working the whole time,” says Silvia, who often got just three hours of sleep a day.
Yet amid the financial crisis, something worse than the slog befell them: Plentiful jobs for illegals disappeared. Silvia lost her job at a plastic factory, which gave her more time with the kids. But Pedro’s weekly pay of $340 from his construction job wasn’t enough.
And the feeling of welcome changed, too. Beginning with Arizona, states began passing laws to crack down on illegal immigration. Tales of Mexicans sent home after getting stopped for speeding spread, and it even touched home: One family member was sent home to Tamaula, after being caught driving without a license, while his wife and children continue to live in Georgia. Desperate to avoid the same fate, Pedro stopped driving on national holidays to avoid police checks.
Read the full story HERE
- Home again in Mexico: Illegal immigration hits net zero (csmonitor.com)
- Obama proposes new rule for immigrant families (northernbarbarians.wordpress.com)