New Mexican consul says U.S. influx is bad for Mexico, too
By Stephen Magagnini
The Sacramento Bee, October 4, 2009
The Mexican government has sent one of its top experts on Mexican migration to Sacramento to dispel myths about the estimated 7 million undocumented Mexicans in the United States.
That emigration 'is very bad business for Mexico — we are losing our young labor force,' said the new consul general of Mexico in Sacramento, Carlos Gonzalez Gutierrez. 'Whole villages are becoming ghost towns.'
Instead of staying in Mexico to create wealth, the workers are coming to the United States to create wealth, Gonzalez Gutierrez said. 'It's not the U.S. subsidizing Mexico — it's the other way around. The only solution is to create better jobs in Mexico.'
Gonzalez Gutierrez, 45, became consul general in Sacramento in May. He and his staff of 30 serve 800,000 immigrants from Modesto to the Oregon border.
The consulate offers IDs to Mexican immigrants so they can open bank accounts. It also helps people locate relatives, deal with legal problems and find health care.
Gonzalez Gutierrez studied Mexican migration for six years while serving as executive director of the Institute for Mexicans Abroad — about 12 million worldwide, most of them in the United States.
Gonzalez Gutierrez understands the fear and distrust of undocumented immigrants.
'I see in Mexico exactly the same reaction' to Central Americans, Koreans and others. 'It's part of the human condition. You become concerned when you see a massive inflow of immigrants.'
But sending all the undocumented workers back to Mexico would create more problems for the United States, he said, collapsing the economy and disrupting families.
'They are part of binational families — many have children and spouses who are U.S. citizens.'
The immigration debate in the United States 'has nothing to do with reality,' Gonzalez Gutierrez said.
Not only are millions of undocumented workers binational, but some of California's key industries — agriculture, construction, restaurants and hotels — depend on them. 'To pull the plug on foreign labor is to hurt yourself,' he said.
The undocumented workers were essentially 'invited here by employers who could not fulfill these jobs otherwise — more than 80 percent of California's farmworkers are immigrants,' Gonzalez Gutierrez said.
'They come because of the huge income gap — the average Mexican worker makes about $10,000 a year, while the median income for Mexicans 16 years and older in the U.S. is $20,238.'
Undocumented workers pay sales taxes and many pay income taxes through their employers, he said.
They will pay more taxes, complete their educations and contribute more to California if they are given work permits that allow them to go back and forth, he said.
The cost of undocumented immigrants 'is huge on both sides of the border,' Gonzalez Gutierrez said.
Along with laborers, half a million Mexican university graduates are living in America, 'and we need these people in Mexico,' Gonzalez Gutierrez said.
While critics of immigration policy change often accuse the Mexican government of inefficiency and corruption, Gonzalez Gutierrez said, even if Mexico's economy grew at a record 7 percent a year, the income gap would still pull migrants to the United States for decades to come.
Regardless, Mexican migration has dropped 50 percent over the past several years because of the recession, Gonzalez Gutierrez said.
Gonzalez Gutierrez said his job is to promote investment and job creation in Mexico, and to protect and empower Mexicans here and help them integrate into U.S. society.
Their success is key to Mexico's success. 'They are one of the most powerful sources for change we have because they want to make Mexico more democratic and more open,' Gonzalez Gutierrez said.