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Mexican Immigration

 

While many observers in America find the issue of Mexican immigration to the United States to be the most crucial, and potentially damaging, issue facing the nation at this time, the key components of the argument used by those who are opposed to Mexican immigration actually hold within them, the seeds of a positivistic interpretation of Mexican immigration. The argument against Mexican immigration is forwarded along three basic pits 1) That Mexican immigrants drive down wages for American workers 2) that Mexican immigrants cause a burden on social services, state and federal programs and government resources and 3) that Mexican immigrants pose a cultural threat to American society due to their reluctance to be “Americanized” which includes the speaking of Spanish and other specific cultural adn religious associations.   Many  who oppose Mexican immigration do so on the grounds of “cultural preservation” ; viewing the huge influx of Mexican immigrants as a perilous threat to American cultural identity, (Huntington, 2004).

The opposition view frequently cites the probable lessening of wages for American workers as a primary reason to resist continued Mexican immigration. However, studies of the influence of Mexican immigrants on the salaries and wages of American workers have actually established possible benefits to the influence of immigrants. A series of studies on the impact of Mexican workers concluded that “There is little doubt that from an aggregate economic perspective, immigrants, including those who are part of the current “fourth wave,” have benefitted the nation–and themselves,” (Glazer, 1985, p. 129).

The lure of decent wages, as well as the promise of a functioning police and judicial system along with other perceived opportunities exert a very strong pull on Mexican immigrants who want to leave behind their lives in Mexico and find the promise of a better life in America. As such, Mexican immigrants are not only willing to do work that many Americans would not do: agriculture, service, and domestic labor — but they are willing to work at these jobs for a low wage. The fact remains that: Wages are several times higher in the United States than in Mexico, and educational opportunity, social welfare programs, and judicial/police fairness are far greater,” in the US. The impact of the contributions of Mexican immigrants, far from being a drag on the US economy, or a bane to the wages of US workers, fills a gap in the US workforce and allows for US workers to occupy positions with better salaries and higher benefits; 45% of all agricultural work is done by immigrants, many of them undocumented,(Harrison, 1992, p. 175).

The idea that Mexican immigrants exert a powerful negative drain on social services and governmental resources in America  is an alarming idea, but it is largely unsupported by evidence. In one recent study of Mexican immigrants, “Based on an extensive analysis of 15,000 immigrant families, one researcher has shown that the typical immigrant uses substantially fewer public services than a native-born resident from the time of entry until twelve years later”; such evidence contradicts the passionate claims of anti-immigration voices who believe Mexican immigrants are responsible for “shaking up” government resources and services, (Glazer, 1985, p. 127)

Additionally, the economic impact of Mexican immigrants, when viewed in terms of national production has been decidedly positive: The McCarthy-Valdez study concluded that “on balance, the legal and illegal immigration of Mexican-Americans has been economically beneficial[…] immigration has helped economic growth and price stability,” (Harrison, 1992, p. 183). The contributions of immigrant labor are not new in America and in fact provided an influx of labor for important development in America’s social history: “the Dillingham Commission reported in 1909 that Mexican laborers had done most of the railroad construction work in New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and southern California”; so teh contributions of immigrant labor has a solid history in America’s evolution as a nation. (Guerin-Gonzales, 1994, p. 54)

The third element of the argument opposing Mexican immigration is that of cultural preservation and it is this element of the argument which proves to be the most difficult to analyze. For the most part, it is impossible to project or predict what the influence of so many Mexican immigrants will ultimately  have on the cultural makeup and identity of the United States. With some projections of population reaching a 50/50 mark of Hispanics and non-hispanics in specific states like California by the year 2020, it is entirely possible that America will indeed become a bicultural nation. While detractors such as Huntington  argue “that the Anglo-Protestant culture and the American Creed, and therefore the American national identity, are threatened by large-scale immigration from Mexico,” many people view the mass immigration as more ture to the spirit of America and therefore ultimately good for its culture and economy,  (Kurth, 2004).

Face with the possibility of cultural integration, many observers have concluded that this is a positivde rather than negative development for America: “Immigration, regional ethnic, and gender rights upset the stubborn compact between (ethnic) nation and the constitutional state, and they stretch liberal practices toward a greater realization of liberalism’s own promises,” an observation which suggests that Mexican immigration may indeed serve to preserve rather than damage or threaten the cultural identities of democracy adn American freedom which shape American culture and society, (Sommer, 2002, p. 459).

Aturo Gonzales support the rights of Mexican immigrants.  Gonzales defines the hopes and dreams of Mexican immigrants as the Quest for Buenos Dias. In his vision, Mexican immigrants not only bolster the American economy, but they offer a new perspective on the “American Dream” while preserving the striving for equal rights and workers’ rights. Gonzales questions whether or not the Quest for Buenos Dias is attainable by Mexican immigrant but his conclusion is the such a quest is attainable, provided opportunities are extended to Mexican immigrants. In this way, the quest for “Buenos Dias” as a two-way street: Mexican Americans will succeed as long as the necessary resources and opportunities are made available to them, (Gonzales, 1).

The positive contributions of Mexican immigrants to the United States are often overlooked. Although reactions against immigrants tend to be based along the lines of “cultural preservation” as discussed above, the benefits of Mexican immigration are those which tie to cultural integration. What specific benefits come from cultural integration?  Among others: the integration of languages and the bilingual benefits which occur with cultural integration, the compatibility of immigrants with the needed work and labor which Americans will not do, and the resurgence of cultural and national pride which accompanies the successful integration of immigrants in American society.

Mexican Workers and  U.S. Economic Benefits.

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to performing labors and jobs which American citizens may avoid, most Mexican immigrants acquire an upwardly mobile economic lifestyle which improives their standing in social class by the second generation of immigrants: a recent study of immigrants concluded that “both men and women in the labor market are upwardly mobile—understood in terms of increasing wages, better working conditions, and occupational prestige […]census figures for Mexican Americans in New York in 1980 and 1990 showed that 19 percent of men and 31 percent of women were upwardly mobile in terms of occupational prestige and income, (Smith, 2002, p. 113)

Additionally, Mexican immigrants tend to start working at a younger age than American workers and therefore contribute a larger overall magnitude to the workforce of the country:

 

Mexican American women are almost twice as likely (17 percent) as men (9 percent) to work in professional/technical jobs (PUMS, Census 1990). Although our sample had        roughly equal numbers of men and women, the men were more than twice as likely to           work in immigrant industries and other miscellaneous low-paying jobs than the women       (thirty-eight men and fourteen women), and they started to work at a younger age

(Smith, 2002, p. 113)

 

Mexican Immigrants Benefit National Pride

In addition to economic benefits, Mexican immigrant reinforce the pride that America takes in being an open society which willingly absorbs immigrants. After-all America’s heritage is rich with examples of the contributions of many immigrant races, from Italian to Irish and everything in between. Not only do Mexican immigrants improve the economy and infuse American society with pride, they remind American citizens why America is such a great country. For this reason and due the the crucial economic and social contributions made by Mexican immigrants, many high-profile politicians, including President George Bush have forwarded the idea of temporary workers’ visas and other inducements to help provide for cultural integration.

Some cities have declared themselves sanctuaries for Mexican immigrants:declaring themselves “sanctuary cities” or  “otherwise refusing to notify the INS of apparent violations of the immigration laws” This policy has been under severe criticism by opponents of Mexican immigration. Over a million people cross the border illegally each year, a majority of them Mexican or Central American.  (Hailbronner, Martin, & Motomura, 1998, p. 207)

Those who dislike the idea of  sanctuary cities have retaliated by generating new legislation which makes it more difficult for Mexican immigrants to receive state of federal services.  Many of these initiatives are in the style of “Proposition 187, the initiative adopted by California’s voters” which among other standards, bars “undocumented children from schools, close off nonemergency assistance to undocumented aliens, and require service providers to inquire into the immigration status of their clients, notifying the INS of anyone believed to be present illegally,”  (Hailbronner, Martin, & Motomura, 1998, p. 207)

Although it is unlikely that opponents of Mexican immigration will ever be swayed by the ell-documented and statistically supported evidence cited above regarding the economic and cultural contributions of Mexican immigrants, the continued influence of Mexican immigrants will certainly play a crucial role in determining the social and economic future of America.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

 

Chavez, L. R. (2001). Covering Immigration: Popular Images and the Politics of the Nation.      Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

 

Glazer, N. (Ed.). (1985). Clamor at the Gates: The New American Immigration. San Francisco:            ICS Press.

 

Guerin-Gonzales, C. (1994). Mexican Workers and American Dreams: Immigration,       Repatriation, and California Farm Labor, 1900-1939. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers            University Press.

 

Harrison, L. E. (1992). Who Prospers? How Cultural Values Shape Economic and Political       Success. New York: Basic Books.

 

Huntington, S. P. (2004, March/April). The Hispanic Challenge. Foreign Policy 30+.

 

Kurth, J. (2004, Fall). The Late American Nation. The National Interest 117+.

 

Ryzowy, J. (2002). Mexican Americans and the US Economy: Quest for Buenos Dias. American             Economist, 46(2), 89+.

 

Suárez-Orozco, M. M. & Páez, M. M. (Eds.). (2002). Latinos: Remaking America. Berkeley,      CA: University of California Press.

 

Hailbronner, K., Martin, D., & Motomura, H. (Eds.). (1998). Immigration Controls: The Search             for Workable Policies in Germany and the United States. Providence, RI: Berghahn Books.

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