August 17, 2005: Over 40% In Mexico Would Live In The U.S. (Results Of A Pew Hispanic Center Poll Of Hispanics In Both The U.S. And Mexico Show Disturbing Future For U.S. If Federal Government Does Not Stop Illegal Immigration From Mexico.)
Over 40% In Mexico Would Live In The U.S.
By Vincent J. Schodolski
Tribune national correspondent
August 17, 2005
LOS ANGELES –More than 40 percent of Mexicans in a new survey would opt to immigrate to the United States and more than 20 percent of them would enter this country illegally given the opportunity, a study released Tuesday disclosed.
The survey by the Pew Hispanic Center also found that the desire to immigrate to the U.S. cuts across a wide socio-economic swath, with the poorest of Mexicans sharing the urge to move north with high school and college educated fellow countrymen.
“Contrary to what people might expect, the desire to immigrate is not restricted to the poor,” said Roberto Suro, the director of the Washington-based Pew Hispanic Center. “It is strong in the middle class even among Mexicans who have been to
college,” he said.
The report is based on polls of Hispanics conducted in Mexico and the United States. The questions also touched on attitudes toward immigrants and U.S. immigration policy.
The survey of 1,200 people in Mexico was conducted twice, in February and again in May.
About 35 percent of Mexican college graduates surveyed said they would
come to the U.S., the poll found, and 13 percent would do so even if it meant entering this country illegally.
Suro said that even among the higher end of the Mexican socio-economic
spectrum the “desire to migrate is strong.”
Sharp differences of opinion
Another poll showed sharp differences of opinion between Hispanic residents of the U.S. who were born elsewhere and Hispanics born in the United States. The former group was inclined to view immigrants favorably and to support the issuance of driver's licenses to people in the country illegally.
The latter group was supportive of immigrants, but by a far smaller margin. This group also opposed issuing licenses to undocumented residents.
“We know that the negative sentiments are more prevalent among the middle-aged rather than the young,” Suro said. “Part of it is [the] perception of what's at stake and what there is to lose.
“Just because someone is Hispanic does not mean you are in favor of immigrants,” he said.
Suro also noted that Hispanics–in this case mainly Mexicans–could not be assumed to have similar opinions based solely on ethnic and national origins.
“People are looking at specific issues and making specific judgments,” he said during a conference call Tuesday with journalists from aroun the country.
One such issue was that of driver's licenses for immigrants who are in the United States illegally.
He said the argument against issuing licenses to such individuals included national security and terrorism components. U.S.-born Hispanics, he suggested, might have been influenced by those arguments to oppose the licenses, while newly arrived immigrants might not have been swayed.
Survey participants also were asked if at this moment they had “the means and opportunity to go live in the United States,” would they go?
In the February survey, 41 percent of the respondents said yes. In the second round, in May, 46 percent said yes. Mexico's population is more than 100 million people.
A spokesman for a think tank that has raised concerns about illegal immigration said the poll's findings are alarming.
“They're looking at 46 million people who would like to come–if the numbers are to believed. Even if a small fraction decide to come, you're looking at enormous numbers,” said Steven Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies, which emphasizes the costs and law-enforcement aspects of illegal immigration.
Go after employers'
“People are coming unless we stop them. It's not going to take care of itself,” Camarota added. “The way you would deter people from coming is to go after employers hiring the illegal, policing the borders, stopping Social Security and the IRS from knowingly taking bogus Social Security numbers. “When people say we try to enforce the law, I just choke on that answer,” he said.
Doris Meissner, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute and the commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service under President Bill Clinton, also called the Pew survey findings worrisome.
“But . . . when you think about it, maybe it isn't so startling because immigration really has affected Mexico and Mexican families across the board in a very basic way,” she said.
“Most every Mexican knows someone, or knows of someone, who is in the
United States, or has been in the United States, legally, or illegally.”
Meissner said a proposal by the Bush administration to allow Mexicans into the U.S. to work on a temporary basis could be one way to deal with illegal immigration, but by no means is ita final solution.
“We've got to reform the immigration law, and one of the things that we have to do is to take into account is that we have a need for a labor force beyond the people being born in the United States,” she said.
“Whether it is guest workers or other forms of broadening immigration for our labor-force needs,” Meissner added, “that debate is starting to unfold and it is a debate that we need to have.”
Tribune national correspondent Michael Martinez contributed
Surveys reveal Latino attitude on immigration
A new survey by the Pew Hispanic Center found that native-born and foreign-born Hispanics have differing views on immigration. Meanwhile, nearly half of all Mexicans surveyed expressed a desire to come to the United States, even if they already are doing well economically.
U.S. LATINOS ON IMMIGRATION
Percent saying the following:
Immigrants strengthen the U.S.: 65%
Immigrants are a burden on the U.S.: 28%
Immigrants strengthen the U.S.: 89%
Immigrants are a burden on the U.S.: 5%
Immigrants strengthen the U.S.: 80%
Immigrants are a burden on the U.S.: 14%
Total U.S. population
Immigrants strengthen the U.S.: 45%
Immigrants are a burden on the U.S.: 44%
Percent approving of restricting driver's licenses to U.S. citizens or legal immigrants
U.S.-born Latinos: 60%
Foreign-born Latinos: 29%
MEXICANS ON IMMIGRATION
Percent saying they would move to the U.S. if they could, by family income:
7 times minimum wage or more 45%
3-7 times minimum wage 45%
0-3 times minimum wage 47%
Note: Don't know/no answer/refused to answer responses are not shown.
Source: Pew Hispanic Center surveys of 1,001 U.S. Latino respondents from June 14-27 and of 1,200 Mexican adults conducted May 13-17, margin of error
+/-3 percentage points
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