Mexican immigration into the United States is an exceptionally controversial topic that is prevalent in modern U.S. political discussion. Opinions on immigration are very polarized across groups in the two countries, but it is clear that the drawbacks outweigh the benefits for both the United States and Mexico.
Economically, unlimited immigration is not very efficient in the United States for two reasons: decreased wages for the lower-skilled, native working class and immigrant use of government assistance at high rates. Since a disproportionately large amount of less educated immigrants are coming from Mexico, there is a supply shock of unskilled workers in the U.S., effectively inspiring a wage dip for native workers of the same demographic (Borjas). Naturally, employed immigrants are willing to work harder for lower pay while the opposite is true for natives, so immigrants are the preferred employees of corporations.
Immigrant labor allows for more efficient production and a hefty redistribution of wealth to employers. This reallocation is so large, in fact, that it actually increases the wealth of natives as a whole; however, this surplus is very miniscule and is overshadowed by a second factor, immigrant use of welfare services. It is proven that immigrant households “receive government assistance at higher rates than natives”, and typically, they do not bring in enough income or consequentially pay enough in taxes to offset the costs of government services, making them a drain on native taxpayers in the long run. (Borjas) The collective evidence of immigration’s negative fiscal impact on the United States makes it quite difficult to deny that it is not economically helpful to the country.
Expanding on the effect of immigration on low-skill native workers, some would assert that immigrants simply take the jobs that natives do not want. In reality, the issue is much more complex. This may be the case for some jobs, but in most instances, immigrant workers serve as a substitute for their native counterparts. As previously mentioned, immigrants will take a job for a low wage, mostly because the salary is relatively high as opposed to what they would be making at the same job in Mexico, while native workers have a different idea of what is a satisfactory wage.
This alludes to the more plausible conclusion, which is that “immigrants do the jobs that natives don’t want to do at the going wage” (Borjas). Lastly, when examining the effects on an area where there was a concentrated increase in immigrant population of the same skill level as natives versus an area that was not affected by immigration, it is clear to see that where there is more immigration, wages increase least and the opposite is true for the latter. This is supported by the debunking of the Mariel boatlift study by George Borjas, in which he concluded that the weekly wage of high-school dropouts in Miami decreased by around $100, while those in placebo cities only dropped by $50.
One of the main areas of concern of emigration out of Mexico is a phenomenon known as the “brain drain”. This can be described as the wave of well-educated, highly-skilled migrants that leave Mexico to pursue advanced, high-paying jobs in the United States. The brain drain can be attributed to two factors: the instability of Mexico’s institutions and a shortage of career opportunities and resources (Medina Arenas). Many Mexicans acquire their education abroad, but return to find that the funding and environment critical to continuing their careers simply does not exist (Velasco) The supply of highly educated Mexicans is well exceeding the creation of high-skilled jobs, a fault of Mexico’s government and private sector.
This will not last forever, though, as Mexico is predicted to lose so many educated individuals by 2025 that the situation will flip, and it will finally show demand for professionals (Medina Arenas). If by then Mexico still does not have the infrastructure or salaries that they came to the U.S. seeking, it is not probable that emigrants will return or that the outward flow of educated Mexicans will slow. It is also important to note the extent to which politics penetrate the walls of Mexico’s institutions. The Mexican government influences research institutions by not only pushing research only into areas that are of highest concern to the government, but also by appointing the heads of the same institutions without the approval of the senate using a board made up of primarily government officials (Velasco). As a result, universities rarely receive the necessary funding or support that it most direly needs.
A negative consequence of illegal immigration in particular, and furthermore an increase in border control, is the ever-increasing dangers of Mexicans crossing the border without authorization. Unauthorized immigrants are now dying in “record numbers” in attempts to find their way to the United States (Colloff). With increasing border security via the U.S. government, crossing is more perilous than ever before, forcing undocumented immigrants to maneuver across treacherous terrain and face possibilities of dying of hunger, starvation, hyperthermia, hypothermia, and drowning among many others. Hundreds now die before reaching the border each year.
This has led to a rise in several industries, including the popularity of human-smugglers, otherwise known as coyotes. The dangers of crossing have led Mexicans to become desperate, often throwing thousands of dollars to these businesses for the sake of finding refuge in the United States. They also resort to more dangerous means of transportation like stolen vehicles, tractor trailers, the tops of trains, and boats (Homeland Security). As a direct result of these deaths, many of the families that are left behind in Mexico now face tremendous struggles that weren’t anticipated, like a mother who is now forced to take on the double role of care and financial support for her family. This has proven to be a huge social issue for Mexico, but nonetheless, the desire to reap the benefits of working in the United States persists.
With all factors taken into account, it is understandable why there are many varying opinions about the holistic impact that immigration has made on the United States and Mexico; however, the multitude of evidence of the negative economic and social effects of immigration has supported the conclusion that it is not aligned with the interests of either country.
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