Fewer and fewer Mexican migrants have left their country in the last couple of years to move to the United States, a study says.
After a tough economic year, many Mexican immigrants who usually return home from the U.S. for Christmas and New Year are more likely to stay home.
Phoenix-based FI2W reporter Valeria Fernández produced a radio piece for NPR’s Latino USA on immigrants who work in the dairy industry and the farmers who hire them.
By Valeria Fernández, FI2W contributor
For almost two years now, one of my sources here in Arizona had insisted that I do a story about immigrants working in dairies. I finally started to work on this one about five months ago, before I even knew which direction it was going to take, or even that it was going to become a radio piece. I needed to become familiar with the universe of dairies at a time when Arizona was facing an intense crackdown on illegal immigration.
There was naturally going to be fear and resistance on the part of immigrant workers. For about two years now, the state has had a law in place that sanctions companies who knowingly hire undocumented labor.
The law has been used mostly to conduct work-site raids in businesses, resulting in the arrest of a couple of hundred workers. The number is not large, but the chilling effect on local immigrant communities is much bigger.
In a couple of ways, this was unexplored territory for me. I was as nervous as the subjects of the story. Not only was I going to leave the comfort of print, but also, I was going to do it in English, my second language. I feared leaving my small notepad and using a microphone instead. Often times I would just tuck it away, and listen to people to help them relax.
There have been stories about workers in agriculture, but I wanted to do a story about what life was like in the dairies. I had all sorts of preconceptions.
The summit of the “Three Amigos” (the presidents of the U.S., Mexico and Canada) in Guadalajara brought no good news for Mexicans on the immigration front. The headline in Monday’s Mexico City newspaper El Universal summed it up: “Neither immigration reform nor does Canada eliminate visas.” At a press conference at the summit President Obama said that Congressional action on immigration reform will have to wait until next year.
With a raging drug war south of the border, trade controversies and the U.S. Congress occupied with other matters, Mexican President Felipe Calderón apparently did not even intend to push the issue of immigration with his American counterpart, Barack Obama, in their private meeting on Sunday.
Also at the summit, Canada, which recently started requiring all Mexican visitors to obtain a visa, said it has no intention of going back on that decision, which has incensed Mexicans, already sensitive on the issue.
According to El Universal, Obama told Calderón that the White House has a full plate right now, which makes it impossible to deal with an immigration reform bill.
The Mexican ambassador to the U.S., Arturo Sarukhán, narrated the encounter, saying Obama told Calderón that “if the rest of the legislative agenda in the U.S., in Congress, moves in the right direction, space could open up between November and March. But evidently, right now, the immigration reform bill is not ready at this time to be introduced in Congress.” (more…)
PHOENIX, Arizona — Flowers in hand, day or night, visitors have been coming to the little house of Catalino Díaz Villa‘s widow to pay their respects after his death. Some never met him, but to them he is a brother. They share a common bond: they all were farmworkers in the American countryside as part of the Bracero Program over 50 years ago.
Díaz Villa, 84, died in a traffic accident when a vehicle struck him while crossing the street. It was the Fourth of July, but he was working as usual. He made a living by selling cans and metal scraps he picked up on the streets of central Phoenix.
He was part of a generation of aging braceros struggling to survive without a pension, hoping to win a fight to recover wages withheld from them decades ago as part of a controversial guest-worker program between Mexico and the U.S. The money that was supposed to be given to the workers to encourage them to return to their country was instead kept by Mexico.
Mexicans are not fleeing the U.S. economy in droves to return home, says a report released this week by the Pew Hispanic center. After months of speculation last year and dramatic statements from Mexican state and municipal officials, this is the first broad study of whether the recession has caused a huge wave of reverse migration.
“The current recession has had a harsh impact on employment of Latino immigrants, raising the question of whether an increased number of Mexican-born residents are choosing to return home,” the study says. “This new Hispanic Center analysis finds no support for that hypothesis in government data from the United States or Mexico.”
The Pew study cites the Mexican government’s National Survey of Employment and Occupation, which includes data on household members returning from abroad.
“The number of arrivals home has not increased for any year-to-year period since the Mexican survey began in 2006,” the study says.
Together with David Shirk, director of the Trans-Border Institute and assistant professor of political science at the University of San Diego, Diego spoke about the mid-term elections in Mexico, where the PRI, the party that controlled the country for seven decades until 2000, has made a stunning comeback.
You can listen to the interview below or go to the show’s webpage.[audio:http://audio.wnyc.org/bl/bl070709epod.mp3]
The election had a turnout rate of less than 50% and it saw almost 6% of voters casting nullified ballots as a protest against the political party system.
In a poignant gesture in this age of democratized communications, Twitter user @priscilliana decided to vote for the social network’s Fail Whale:
PHOENIX, Arizona — Conservative talk-radio commentators were faster than a virus in spreading the idea that undocumented immigrants are a hazard to public health by bringing a new flu virus across the country’s “porous border.”
But one national media organization is trying to keep the anti-immigrant fervor out of newsrooms.
On Wednesday, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) called for the mainstream media to “resist the baseless blame of immigrants” in connection with the spread of influenza A-H1N1.
“This virus should not be characterized as a Mexican disease,” said Iván Román, NAHJ’s executive director. “We should also resist covering it in a way that furthers anti-immigrant rhetoric.”
Román pointed out that while there may be a temptation to link Mexican immigrants to the spread of the disease in the United States, it is necessary to keep in mind that this community is no more responsible for it than American spring-breakers traveling to Mexico.
By Valeria Fernández, FI2W contributor
PHOENIX, Arizona — While thousands across the nation plan to march for immigration reform this Friday, May 1, a handful of former immigrant farmworkers in their seventies are holding a different protest here.
The men still call themselves braceros, the inheritors of a largely criticized guest-worker program agreement between the United States and Mexico to satisfy the need for labor during World War II. Their story offers a cautionary tale about the prospect of future guest-worker programs touted by political leaders such as Arizona Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl as part of the answer to the need for immigration reform.
The braceros’ weeklong rally started on Monday, April 27th, outside the Mexican Consulate in Phoenix to demand that Mexico’s government settle a 40-year-old debt with them. This was money that was taken from their paychecks while they worked in the American countryside. Mexico was supposed to create a fund for the workers with that money, but its government just kept it.
Between 1943 and 1964 about 4 million braceros worked in the fields. About 400 of them now reside in Arizona. After the Bracero Program ended, they stayed and continued to work as undocumented labor. Today, many like Dionisio Garcia, 76, don’t have much to show for it when it comes to retirement.
“We’re here to see if they pay us,” said Garcia, a member of the Frente Bi-Nacional de Ex-Braceros, a retired farmworkers group from Arizona that organized the protest.
On a Wednesday morning, Garcia and his fellow ex-braceros stood outside the consulate holding a large sign demanding payment. For Garcia –now an American citizen–, it’s hard to stand for more than a few minutes ever since a cow broke his back at a cattle ranch four years ago.
“I’d just found out there was some money that they owe us,” said Manuel Coronel, 81. Coronel hides from the Arizona sun under a hat, sitting in his motorized wheelchair as he watches people come and go into the consulate.
MEXICO CITY — As President Barack Obama arrived in Mexico City Thursday, a small group of immigration activists demonstrated at the U.S. Embassy on leafy Paseo de la Reforma, close to downtown. They were there to demand comprehensive immigration reform in the U.S. and a stop to immigration raids and deportations.
Children who are U.S. citizens but now live in Mexico because of their parents’ deportations were there. After President Obama said at his speech in the Democratic National Convention last year that no one “benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child,” activists had hoped he would stop deportations that break up families with an executive order. That has not happened.
The Pew Hispanic Center said this week that 73% of the children of undocumented immigrants were born in the U.S. and are U.S. citizens.
One of the protesters present was Elvira Arellano, who became known nationwide when she fought a deportation order in 2006 by seeking sanctuary inside a Chicago church. Arellano was finally deported in 2007 and now runs a shelter for deported women and children in Tijuana while continuing to work for immigration reform from the other side of the border. She came to the embassy with her 10-year-old son, Saúl, a U.S. citizen.
You can watch a slideshow on the Arellanos below or, for higher quality, go to our YouTube channel.