The Hispanic Challenge for the U.S.

The Hispanic Challenge for the U.S.

Real-estate mogul, Apprentice host and 2016 U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump’s comment about Mexican immigrants, which described them as “rapists” and people who bring drugs and crime into the U.S., has put the fears of many Americans on the forefront . The insidious comment hasn’t just drawn ire from the Mexican authorities but also from Americas own population. Donald Trump continues to stand by his controversial comment as his standings in Republican primary polls improve despite increasing criticism.

The presidential hopeful placed ahead of perceived front-runner Jeb Bush in a new aggregated ‘poll of polls’ with 13.6 per cent support compared to the former Florida governor’s 13.3.The rise came amid public figures and businesses continued admonishing Trump because of the comments saying that those crossing the border from Mexico illegally were ‘rapists’.

This is the bitter truth in the USA. The Americans are dependent on these Hispanic immigrant population for their day to day job, but yet they are feeling the punch of this Mexican population influx. Large-scale Mexican migration to the United States began in the early 20th century, motivated by labor demands in the United States and political unrest in Mexico. Throughout the 20th century, major reforms to the U.S. immigration system played a role in shaping the size and character of Mexican immigration flows. Since 1980, Mexicans have been the largest immigrant group in the United States. As of 2013, approximately 11.6 million Mexican immigrants resided in the United States—up from 2.2 million in 1980—and Mexicans accounted for 28 per cent of the country’s 41.3 million foreign born.

Immigration from Mexico to the United States has gone through four main periods. The first wave, occurring prior to World War II, consisted of agricultural workers recruited by private labour contractors, with the number of Mexican immigrants rising from 105,200 in 1900 to 624,400 in 1930. The Bracero program, from 1942 to 1964, ushered in the second wave, also consisting mostly of agricultural guest workers. The third, largely unauthorized wave began after the Bracero program was terminated and after 1965 changes to U.S. immigration law ended national-origin quotas and imposed the first numerical limits on Mexico and other Latin American countries. The majority of Mexican immigrants in this third wave were male, seasonal farm laborers who regularly traveled back and forth across the border. The passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) and subsequent investments in border security were a turning point, initiating the fourth wave of Mexican migration. IRCA legalised close to 3 million unauthorised migrants, including 2.3 million Mexicans, in return for tougher border enforcement and penalties for American employers who hired unauthorised workers. As crossing the border became more difficult, and as economic changes in the United States opened additional jobs to low-skilled foreign workers, immigrants began to settle permanently, bringing their families to live in the United States. Between 1990 and 2010 more than 7.5 million Mexican immigrants—many of whom were unauthorized—arrived.

More recently, Mexican immigration to the United States has begun to decline—marking at least a pause, and possibly an end to the fourth wave. Declining inflows appear to reflect the impact of the Great Recession, improved educational and economic opportunities in Mexico, and ever-tougher border enforcement.

The vast majority of Mexican emigrants settle in the United States, with others heading to Canada (70,000), Spain (47,000), and Guatemala (17,000), according to mid-2013 estimates by the United Nations Population Division. Mexicans represent the largest unauthorised immigrant group in the United States. As of 2012, 6.7 million (59 per cent) of the estimated 11.3 million unauthorised immigrants in the United States were from Mexico. The number of Mexican-born beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is also the largest of all origin groups. Between August 15, 2012 and June 30, 2014, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) had accepted 526,816 initial and renewal DACA applications from youth born in Mexico (77 per cent of all applications accepted). As of March 31 2014, more than 85 per cent of accepted applications from Mexican nationals had been approved, granting temporary reprieve from deportation.

The abovementioned data shows how much impact the Hispanic population has on the United States of America. As the late Political Scientist Samuel P Huntington aptly describe it in one of his articles, “The impact of Mexican immigration on the United States becomes evident when one imagines what would happen if Mexican immigration abruptly stopped. The annual flow of legal immigrants would drop by about 175,000, closer to the level recommended by the 1990s Commission on Immigration Reform chaired by former U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. Illegal entries would diminish dramatically. The wages of low-income U.S. citizens would improve. Debates over the use of Spanish and whether English should be made the official language of state and national governments would subside. Bilingual education and the controversies it spawns would virtually disappear, as would controversies over welfare and other benefits for immigrants. The debate over whether immigrants pose an economic burden on state and federal governments would be decisively resolved in the negative. The average education and skills of the immigrants continuing to arrive would reach their highest levels in U.S. history. The inflow of immigrants would again become highly diverse, creating increased incentives for all immigrants to learn English and absorb U.S. culture. And most important of all, the possibility of a de facto split between a predominantly Spanish-speaking United States and an English-speaking United States would disappear, and with it, a major potential threat to the country’s cultural and political integrity.”

Mexican migration to the United States has been a major area of contention for U.S.-Mexico bilateral relations since the 1900s. Historically, there have been periods of shared interests in promoting migratory flows. Today, U.S. immigration legislation has become more restrictive, partly reflecting an American concern for the high level of Mexican immigration. Nevertheless, Mexico continues to be the leading country of origin for migrant workers, legally and illegally, into the United States. Mexico cannot easily be ignored for many reasons. Among those reasons is the unavoidable reality that both countries share the same 2,000-mile border. This close proximity makes each other susceptible to the consequences of domestic events: the issues of one affects the other. In addition, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has helped tie the countries further by making Mexico the U.S. second largest trading partner.

The issue of Mexican immigration, its impact, and contributing factors had not been an issue of great concern in North America until the 1900s. It was only when events around the world affected the United States in which it found itself entering a war, sending its men to fight and quickly having to recruit individuals from other countries for the left behind jobs. Businessmen in various U.S. sectors found themselves in a difficult position. Women were the only answer to fulfill the increasing number of job vacancies that existed in manufacturing and agriculture sectors. On the other hand, American women were concerned about the care and education of their children. If women worked they would then have to incur the extra costs of daycare. In addition, hard hit sectors such as agriculture could no longer employ minors due to child labour laws established with the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA). FLSA legislation established minimum ages for employment in agriculture.

As the American population becomes more educated, they are less willing to work in low paying jobs such as agriculture, manufacturing or other service sector positions. It is the migrants that are willing to work in these low paying jobs with minimum or no benefits. Even as the Mexican economy is improving and the Mexican government introduces programs to educate their citizens and employ citizens, Mexico remains a labor surplus nation. Mexico still has a long way to go in improving wages, working conditions, and benefits for its citizen. Therefore, legal migrants are willing to leave their families behind for work in the U.S. and illegal migrants are willing to take higher risks to obtain employment in the United States. Both legal and illegal wish to improve their opportunities and living standards.

Politicians in Mexico and the United States face a difficult decision when it comes to migration. Government officials in Mexico and the United States must understand that migration is a social process that cannot be turned off and on like a light switch. Both countries must take responsibility for the process that was begun in the 1900s.

No longer will Mexico have a “no policy” policy and no longer can the U.S. expect for make unilateral decisions on issues that affect both countries. Both countries have determined that migration issues are a priority even though each comes to the table with different reasons for negotiating. Mexico wishes to improve conditions for Mexican migrants while the United States wishes to control illegal migration and provide labor for needing sectors.

By Nilabh Krishna

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