Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2010
19 Pages, Grade: 2,3
2 History of Mexican Immigration
3 Understanding Mexican immigration
4 Socioeconomic status of Mexicans in the U.S
4.1 Naturalization rates
4.2 Educational level
4.3 Income rates
5 Legal vs. Illegal Immigration
6 Debate on Illegal Immigration
6.1 Arguments for illegal immigration
6.2 Arguments against illegal immigration
7 Future trends
The topic of immigration is a thorny issue in the American society. Specifically, the issue of illegal immigration is a burning issue. A record 12.7 million immigrants lived in the United States in 2008, a 17-fold increase since 1970. Mexicans now account for about one third of all immigrants living in the United States, and more than half of them are unauthorized. Looking at these statistics it is agreeable that Mexicans are representing the most noticeable immigration group in the U.S. and compared to other minority groups are of most greatness to American society. By thinking of Mexican Americans today the most discussed question arises. Are they burden for the country or simply a source of cheap labor? In 2002 the book with intriguing name “The Death of the West” was published and immediately caused contradictory responses and recognition at the same time, connected to the burning issues published in this book. The book is written by the well known American politician Patrick J. Buchanan, the former main adviser of U.S. Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and devoted to the analysis of hazards representing deadly threats to the existence of the western civilization. The mass immigration, caused by requirement of labor in the developed countries, is one of those hazards. According to the author the fact that an overwhelming part of the immigrants, coming to these countries, are representatives of other races, religions and cultures can change not only ethnic structure of the population, but also the historically developed shape of the West as a whole, its character and foundations. Mexicans, coming to the U.S., in many cases illegally, represent that mass immigration and because of their high number, raise some doubts in American society, whether they are useful or rather harmful.
In this paper I will compare two controversial issues regarding Mexican immigration group. On the one side I will consider Mexicans as a threat to the United States, on the other side I will count them as an important source of labor, and therefore try to understand their role and current social status in American society today. I will also take a closer look at the historical backgrounds and general facts forcing them to leave their homeland.
Mexicans refer to the relatively new group of immigrants. There have always been immigration flows from different countries, but Mexicans were dominating in immigration to the south of the United States. The History of Mexicans and their mutual relations with Americans were not ordinary. It was a hard period of time for the United States and their neighboring country Mexico in XIX century. History of Mexican American negotiations begins at the desolate moment, when they lost their land, land which they perceived later as the “lost land”. The loss was felt more in northern New Mexico, south Texas and coastal California, where the Mexicans who remained outside Mexico’s shrunken borders were concentrated. These states and also states of Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma and Kansas were at one time Mexican territory. First conflicts appeared when more and more Angles came to settle that underpopulated Mexican region. The closeness between these two groups brought some severities. Anglos, living in that area, had some difficulties accepting the Mexican rules. They complained that the Mexican government did not protect them from Comanche raids; it was also hard for them to adapt the Spanish-language legal procedures. The declaration of independence followed in 1836, primarily because the Mexican government was trying to bring the Texans under control. The Texas Rebellion was successful, but Mexico never recognized the independence of Texas. In 1845 the U.S. government offered twenty-five million dollars for New Mexico and California, but Mexican officials refused to negotiate and did not stopped to attack U.S. troops. As a result a declaration of war against Mexico was passed. After hopeless attempts to resist against American forces, General Santa Anna resigned in disgrace and the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo (1848) was signed. This Treaty officially ended the war and gave those living in the territory taken from Mexico the right to stay or go to Mexico. Those who would become American citizens or remain Mexican citizens would become property rights, this was promised. But these principles were soon ignored and many Mexicans and former Mexicans lost their land and became strangers in their own country.
The greater part of Mexican immigration had come to the U.S. at the beginning of XX century, mainly because of booming economies of California and Southwest. They came for agricultural jobs in California and Colorado, they also worked as cooper miners in Arizona, coal miners in Colorado and as track layers for western railroads. Mexicans became the main labor source, due to the fact that other immigrants and poor whites could not compete with Mexicans because of the law wages. The Chinese, Japanese and East Indians used to be also a main labor sources but they could not entry the country anymore because of the restrictive immigration laws. As a consequence the industrial mining and commercial agriculture became dependent on Mexican workers. When the railway construction expanded further south, thousands of Mexicans got opportunity to work as seasonal laborers nearby those railway constructions and maintenance. Afterwards, many of them went north and crossed the border to the U.S., where wages were much higher. Although there were so many of them, they were still immigrants and they were confronted with racism and discrimination. Native Mexican Americans faced similar problem, but because of their longer stay in U.S., they learned to survive and participated more within the U.S. system.
Also employers and government of U.S. influenced the numbers of coming immigrants. During and after World War I more and more cheap labor was required in U.S. and in order to keep labor cheap, employers did all they could to encourage the immigration flow. The Mexican Revolution, accelerated modernization in the U.S. and “the roaring twenties” combined to create the most intensive flow of Mexicans across the border. However the Great Depression, the literacy test, the general lack of jobs and competition with American migrants cut the number of incoming Mexicans to just over thirty thousand for the entire decade of the 1930s. When the United States entered World War II a great number of rural workers moved into the military or had to work in the factories producing war equipment. Thus resulted the lack of manpower on U.S. farms and railroad industry. To satisfy the needs on workers, the U.S. government signed an agreement with Mexico, Bracero program, which allowed many Mexicans to come and work in the U.S. on short term labor contracts. This program guaranteed as well that Mexican workers would receive specified minimum wages and certain living conditions. Furthermore the transportation and other costs would be paid by the U.S. government. Its peak was achieved in 1959, when four hundred fifty thousand braceros entered. The 1960 census reported that braceros accounted for just over the quarter of the nation’s seasonal agricultural workers. Apparently many of these workers settled and brought families to the U.S. Also legal immigration, the Mexicans who entered as resident aliens with permanent status, was growing in numbers. According to the 1980 census there were 2.2 million persons born in Mexico living in the United States, which made more than 15 percent of all foreign-born. From historical point of view I can conclude that Mexican immigration to the United States was one of the key problems throughout the whole history of bilateral cooperation between Mexico and the U.S. and as a matter of fact the mass immigration of Mexicans was a natural result of close interaction of two countries with different level of economic development. These historical factors lead us to the current situation of Mexicans in U.S. which I will discuss in more depth in next chapters.
During last decades the economy of Mexico experienced considerable changes connected to the transition to the neoliberal way of economical development and enhancement of processes of regional integration. Considering the rates of development, Mexico was included into the number of most successfully developing countries of the world and occupied the key positions among other countries in Latin America. If it is true, why are there still Mexicans who wish to leave their homes and immigrate to the U.S, legally or illegally?
The essential difference in a standard of living and wage rates is a major reason of Mexican immigration to the United States. According to the neoclassical theory, labor sources stream direct from countries with low wages to the countries with high wages, while the capital moves in opposite direction. So jobs and higher wages attract many Mexicans immigrants to the Unites States. The second important factor is the neighborhood of the U.S. and Mexico. It is clear that it is much easier for Mexicans to enter the United States than for many other immigrants, who live at the longer distance or even overseas.
It seems to me, that although the Mexico is one of the most successfully developing countries nowadays, the job opportunities and wage rates are still better in U.S. Even if the Mexican workers have to work for lower wages they are still searching for chances to emigrate and are seeking a better financial life in U.S.
In this part of the paper I will focus on socioeconomic status of Mexican Americans, and in particular on such issues as naturalization rates, education level, language proficiency, income rates and what effects all these factors have on a person’s social economic status.
The first aspect to point out is that Mexican Americans, compared to other minority groups in U.S, have relatively low naturalization rates. According to Oxford English Dictionary to naturalize means to make someone who was not born in particular country a citizen of that country. Correspondent to numerous studies, the longer immigrants have been in U.S., the more likely it is that they will become citizens. Immigrants, who speak English well, are highly educated or have high incomes, are most likely to be naturalized.
 Pew Hispanic Center „ Mexican Immigrants in the United States, 2008 “, p. 1
 3 4 Rosales, F. Arturo, „ Chicano! The history of the Mexican American civil rights movement “, p.1-5
 9 Roger Daniels, „ A history of immigration and ethnicity in American Life “, p. 309
 7 8 Rosales, F. Arturo, „ Chicano! The history of the Mexican American civil rights movement “ p.20-22
 Roger Daniels, „ A history of immigration and ethnicity in American Life “, p. 310-311
 Jeffrey S. Passel, “Growing Share of Immigrants Choosing Naturalization”, p. 3
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