WASHINGTON — More than half of Mexican immigrants who moved back home said in a recent survey that they have no intention of returning to the U.S., even though many left family here and most had positive experiences.
Those were among the findings of a recent report that said the cycle of Mexican-U.S. immigration has reached the “end of an era.”
“We recognize a new era of return migration where record numbers of Mexicans are returning home and fewer are coming to the United States,” said Aracely Garcia-Granados, executive director of the nonprofit Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together.
“This is the other half of the story to be told,” she said.
Granados spoke at this week’s release of a report, by MATT and Southern Methodist University, that was based on interviews with 600 people in the Mexican state of Jalisco who had lived in the U.S. The interviews were done in mid-2013 with Mexicans who had been in the U.S. at least a year before returning.
Just under two-thirds of them said they came to the U.S. for work. But while 77 percent said they came here illegally, about 89 percent said they returned home voluntarily. Only 11 percent claimed to have been deported.
About 37 percent said they went home for family reasons and another 29.1 percent said it was because they were homesick. Only 4.3 percent said the fear of being deported drove them to cross back over the border.
However they got back home, 53 percent said they had no plans to ever return to the U.S. This despite the fact that 54 percent said they have family in this country and 88 claimed they had a positive experience living here.
The findings are the latest twist in an immigration cycle that saw as many as 12.6 million Mexicans in the U.S. before the recession hit in 2007, Granados said.
She said that between 2005 and 2010, close to 1.4 million Mexicans moved back home from the U.S.
“The No. 1 reason is the economic recession,” said Daniel Martinez, an assistant professor at George Washington University’s sociology department. “Some people have also argued it’s because of increased border enforcement.”
In 2007, deportation of illegal immigrants was close to 290,000, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and that number jumped by almost 80,000 in the year after the recession hit. By 2012, deportations hit a high of almost 410,000.
Martinez — a principal investigator on a University of Arizona report last year on immigration and family separation — said stricter immigration laws might also be keeping more immigrants from trying to cross the border, legally or otherwise.
“They might say, ‘In the past, I use to migrate a couple times a year, but now I only have one chance to get out there,’” he said.
Granados hopes the report will help MATT and the Jalisco government improve programs aimed at helping Mexicans get jobs and education, and integrate back into life in Mexico.
That was echoed by Jorge Ayala, a representative for the Jalisco government at Tuesday’s release of the report in Washington.
“The governor (of Jalisco) feels strongly about really setting forth public politics to help people for that when they come back,” Ayala said. “To have a job for them, to really benefit through the public politics.”
When 600 residents of Jalisco state were asked what factors led them to return home after immigrating to the U.S., family and emotional ties to home topped the list. Some of the responses:
Family reasons: 36.9 percent
Nostalgia: 29.1 percent
Hard to find work in the U.S.: 11.3 percent
Family problems in Mexico: 5.0 percent
Health reasons: 4.7 percent
Fear of being deported: 4.3 percent
Job ended in U.S.: 3.0 percent
Family problems in U.S.: 2.3 percent
Retirement: 1.7 percent
Perceived discrimination/racism: 1.7 percent