'If Mexico had had an avalanche of foreigners so large'

By Jerry Kammer and Jerry Kammer on July 24, 2009

Sergio Sarmiento, a renowned Mexican journalist whose column is syndicated throughout that country, has some interesting observations about the immigration controversy north of the border.

“The resistance in the United States to the Mexican invasion shouldn’t surprise us,” Sarmiento writes (the translation is mine), in a column noting that 11 percent of these born in Mexico are living in the United States. “The growth has been dizzying. In 1960, Mexico was barely seventh among the countries of origin of foreigners in the United States. Now it is first, by far. In 1970, only 760,000 persons born in Mexico lived in the American Union, (representing) 8 percent of the foreigners. By 2008 the number had grown 17-fold, to 12.7 million. In 2009, Mexicans were 21 percent of legal immigrants and 59 percent of the undocumented.”

Sarmiento continues:

“If Mexico had had an avalanche of foreigners so large in a period so short, the resistance would, without a doubt, have been greater. When we have had much smaller flows of foreigners – Argentines, Chileans, Central Americans – the reaction of Mexicans has been very negative. In the Mexico of today, less than one percent of the population was born outside the country. In the United States the figure is close to 12 percent.”

Sarmiento cites immigrants as a reason for U.S. economic growth, saying the flow, especially of Mexicans, “has given youth and vigor to the labor force.” “But,” he adds, “the avalanche of cheap labor has also led to a relative decline in workers’ wages.”

If you enjoyed this blog, check out Impatience Mixed with Hope in the Spanish-Language Press and Castaneda to Calderon.