September 24, 2009
Survey Shows Pull of the U.S. Is Still Strong Inside Mexico
By Julia Preston
In spite of high unemployment in the United States and strict border enforcement, one-third of Mexicans say they would move to this country if they could, and more than half of those would move even if they did not have legal immigration documents, according to a survey published Wednesday by the Pew Research Center.
The United States still exerts a powerful attraction for Mexicans, the survey found, with 57 percent saying that those who leave home to settle here have better lives, while only 14 percent say life is worse in the United States.
Many Mexicans want to migrate here even though they are well informed about the hardships they could face and are expecting conditions at home to improve. Nearly half of those surveyed said they knew someone who had tried to reach the United States but had returned home after being caught by border authorities. Four in 10 said they knew someone who had returned home unable to find a job here.
Although 78 percent of Mexicans said they were not happy with their nation’s direction, 61 percent said they expected the economy to get better in the coming year.
“For many, many people in Mexico, this is still the land of opportunity,” said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan organization in Washington. The poll in Mexico is part of a series of surveys that Pew conducted this year in 24 nations and the Palestinian territories to examine global attitudes.
Personal connections between the two countries are intense. About 4 in 10 Mexicans reported having relatives or friends in the United States they communicated with regularly.
The survey suggests that recent declines in Mexican migration to the United States may be only temporary. A study in July by the Pew Hispanic Center, part of the Pew organization, found a steep decrease in recent years in the flow of Mexican migrants, especially since 2007. Scholars and immigration officials say intensified border controls have combined with the lack of jobs in the United States to discourage Mexicans from attempting an illegal journey. Currently, about 11.5 million Mexicans live in this country, according to Pew; an estimated 7 million of them are illegal immigrants.
The survey was conducted through face-to-face interviews from May 26 to June 2 with 1,000 adults in Mexico, with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.