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EX MEX by Jorge G. Castañeda

EX MEX

From Migrants to Immigrants

By Jorge G. Castañeda

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-59558-163-1
Publisher: New Press

A reasoned and reasonable view of Mexican immigration by former Mexican foreign minister Castañeda (Politics and Latin American Studies/NYU; Perpetuating Power, 2000, etc.).

In Mexico, writes the author, the current minimum wage is about $300 per month and the average wage about $500 per month. Approximately one-quarter of the Mexicans who arrive, legally or not, in the United States make more than $2,500 per month and send $400 home to Mexico, improving lives on both sides of the line. Given these considerations and the boost to the domestic economy—to say nothing of the absence of workers who might otherwise be unemployed—can one expect the Mexican government to make serious efforts to curtail the northward flight? Not likely, and the flight will doubtless only accelerate until Mexico creates enough jobs and enough wealth to satisfy the needs of its people—again, not likely. Mexico can impede the northward flow, Castañeda notes, and has done so in the past. In the summer of 2001, for instance, President Vicente Fox sent armed military patrols into the desert to deter migrants, and the number of people attempting to cross dropped immediately. Yet this requires a political will, notes the author, that has not been seen since, and even if the traffic cannot be stopped completely, Mexico “certainly possesses the capacity to try.” Fortified border or no, Castañeda foresees an increase in Mexican arrivals—20 million in 2015, up from about 12 million today—until “they start to taper off through assimilation, creeping legalization, demographics, and economic growth in the south.” Against nativist and isolationist alarmism, Castañeda suggests that such a thing is not so bad. The notion that the illegals bring crime is gainsaid by the statistics, and there are, after all, jobs that need to be done and American employers eager to fill them.

Castañeda removes the shrillness from the immigration debate. His calming argument merits an audience, especially among the fence-builders in Congress.