Immigration can be understood as the movement of people into a foreign country to which they are not native for purposes of settling down. The push to immigrate is caused by a variety of factors including political reasons such as political unrest or seeking asylum, economic factors such as looking for greener pastures, family reunification, natural calamities or voluntary wish to change one`s environment. Mexicans immigrants together with Mexican American descendants have a unique place in the United States history of immigration. Today, millions of people in the U.S see themselves as Mexican Americans or Mexican immigrants and are among the newest and the oldest residents of the nation. Centuries before the existence of the United States, some Mexicans lived in the Southern and Western parts of the North American region. Several more Mexicans immigrated to the U.S during the 20th century. In fact, in the last 50 years, Mexicans represent the largest number of Latin American immigrants to the United States. The number of immigrants from Mexico residing in the U.S increased rapidly from 1960 to the year 2000, almost tripling in the 70`s, and doubling in the 80`s and 90`s. By 2000, the Mexican born U.S immigrants increased to 30 per cent (Brick et al. 2-4). Nevertheless, the rates of growth of Mexican immigrants have declined significantly since the onset of the economic meltdown at the end of 2007.
Unlike other immigrant groups in the U.S., Mexican immigrants were less likely to get to the U.S as refugees and were more likely to become legal permanent residents as direct family members of U.S citizens. In addition, they are more likely to enter the country illegally, have a lower level of proficiency in English and education and are largely of working age. Among all the immigrants to the U.S, Mexican immigrants have the lowest level of education. In the year 2008, 61.5 percent of Mexican migrants aged 25 years and above had less than a high school degree as compared to 32.5 percent of the entire immigrant only 5.2 percent had a bachelors degree or greater as compared to 27.1 percent of all foreign born adults. Mexicans make up to 60 percent of illegal immigrants in the U.S. in 2009, 62 percent of all Mexican immigrants to the U.S were there illegally.
Mexicans Americans multicultural heritage is rich and multifaceted. It reflects the influences of Mexico, Spain, and aboriginal cultures and has been shaped by several years of survival and adaptation in the crucible of North American history. In addition, their history was shaped by wars and economic crises, the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty and the Gadsden Purchase and ultimately by changing attitudes towards immigration.
Mexican immigrants amounted to over 11.7 million in 2011 which is about four percent of the of the U.S populace. During the same year, over 143,000 Mexican born immigrants received green cards or lawful permanent residence (LPR), while a significant 94,000 Mexican born immigrants obtained citizenship through naturalization (US Department of Homeland Security N.P). Over 80 percent of those who received green cards were also entitled to naturalization. More than half of the Mexican immigrants live in tow states, Texas and California. Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago are three major metropolitan regions in the U.S harboring over a quarter of all Mexican immigrants (Stoney and Batalova N.P).
Generally, immigrants have a higher fertility rate than U.S native and also have larger families. The average family size of Mexican immigrants is five persons. By contrast, the average family size for native U.S population is 3.2. The number of men exceeded the number of women Mexican immigrants in 2011. During the same year, 53 percent of all Mexican immigrants were men against 47 percent women. However, gender distribution was even among native born and general foreign born (Stoney and Batalova N.P).
Whereas in the past majority of Mexican immigrants were concentrated in agricultural related jobs and unskilled jobs, today more skilled laborers are immigrating from Mexico to the United States. Nevertheless, the income of Mexican immigrants is relatively low than that of native U.S residents. A large number of the immigrants live below the state`s defined poverty line. The immigrating population makes a significant part of the U.S workforce. According to Brick et al. 86 percent of Mexican migrants are aged between 18 and 65 which represent a significant proportion of the workforce (12). During the economic meltdown of 2008, Mexican immigrants were largely affected with job loss and even homelessness that led some of them opting to go back home.
Mexican immigration has a controversial position in the United States` legal system as well as public opinion. Over the years, immigration law has shifted gears throughout the 20th century. Sometimes they have welcomed Mexican immigrants and in other times opposing and shunning Mexican immigrants. The reception of immigrants from Mexico among the U.S natives is also fickle. Mexican migrants have been able to make a place for themselves across the United States but are mostly forced to battle through hostile elements in the population in order to survive. In diverse ways, this struggle continues to date (Stoney and Batalova N.P).
The United States embarked on a more closed border in an effort to reduce the number of Mexican immigrants. This has made immigration quite difficult than before for Mexicans seeking to permeate the border. The U.S also founded the Mexican Repatriation program which sought to encourage Mexican immigrants to voluntarily return to Mexico. This program was not successful, and the United States was forced to deport several Mexican immigrants against their will. Over 400,000 Mexican immigrants were deported in 2012 alone.
Mexican immigrants make a substantial part of the United States population and have become the country`s most influential social and cultural groups. In 2010, a total of 139,120 legal immigrants from Mexico entered the United States. This puts Mexico as the top country for immigration (Stoney and Batalova N.P). The Mexican American culture will surely continue to shape United States` life in social, political and cultural identities. It is projected that, Mexican immigration will continue to increase over the coming years.
In conclusion, the immigration debate in the U.S is centered on Mexican and Central American immigrants. This is evident in the general perception in the U.S of a young single Mexican man who does not communicate in English and works in a poorly paying job. Although policies are in place in control of Mexican immigration, the U.S-Mexican borders remain porous as a large number of illegal and legal immigrants still make their way to the U.S in search of greener pastures. Due to the tightening of the border security, Mexicans immigrants are killed in considerable numbers as they try to cross the border illegitimately.
Brick Kate, et al. Mexican and Central American Immigrants in the United States. Migration Policy Institute. 2011. Web. http://www.migrationpolicy.org/pubs/mexcentamimmigrants.pdf (18/12/13).
Stoney, Sierra and Batalova, Jeanne. Mexican Immigrants in the United States. February, 2013. Web. http://www.migrationinformation.org/usfocus/display.cfm?ID=935#9 (18/12/13)
US Department of Homeland Security, Office of Immigration Statistics. 2011. 2011 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics.