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Practically Speaking

Kyle and her husband moved to Brookfield in 1986. She became active in local politics and started blogging in 2004. Her focus is primarily on local issues but often includes state and national topics, too. Kyle looks at things from the taxpayers' perspective in a creative, yet down to earth way, addressing them from a practical point of view.

Sagging economy makes U.S. less attractive to illegals

Illegal immigration, THE ECONOMY

 This may be the only silver lining moment in our failing economy: As U.S. Job Opportunities Fade, More Mexicans Look Homeward:

LOS ANGELES -- During a decade in the U.S., Mexican immigrant Linex Rivera gave birth to three daughters, whose American citizenship offered her hope of staying in the land of opportunity. But with job prospects drying up for her husband, Ms. Rivera last week joined a phalanx of compatriots at the Mexican consulate in Los Angeles inquiring about obtaining Mexican citizenship for their children.

"We are thinking of returning to Mexico and want our daughters to have all the rights of Mexican nationals," says Ms. Rivera, whose children are nine, five and three.

After a historic immigration wave, many Mexicans and other Latin Americans are preparing to return to their homelands amid the deepening recession here. Mexicans who reside in the U.S. sought Mexican citizenship for their U.S.-born children in record numbers last year.

The recession is hitting Hispanic immigrants especially hard, according to a new report by the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research organization. The unemployment rate for foreign-born Hispanics hit 8% in the fourth quarter of 2008, compared with 5.1% in the same quarter a year earlier. During the same period, the unemployment rate for all U.S. workers climbed to 6.5% from 4.6%.

"There is strong evidence that inflows to the U.S. from Mexico have diminished, and the economic distress is likely giving immigrants already here greater incentive to return home," says Rakesh Kochhar, the Pew economist who prepared the report.

The number of people caught trying to sneak into the U.S. along the border with Mexico is at its lowest level since the mid-1970s. While some of the drop-off is the result of stricter border enforcement, the weaker U.S. economy is likely the main deterrent. Border Patrol agents apprehended 705,000 people attempting to enter the U.S. illegally in the 12 months that ended Sept. 30. That is down from 858,638 a year before and from 1.1 million two years earlier.

To be sure, it is difficult to track short-term changes in the population of the estimated 12 million immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally and toil in the off-the-books economy. Some dispute the notion that Mexicans, who flocked here in the 1990s when they could find jobs paying five times as much as they earned back home, are now returning in large numbers. "We believe it is a myth that a lot of Mexicans are going back," said a Mexican diplomat in Washington, who asked to remain anonymous. "But given the economic situation, some of them might be considering it."

A host of metrics suggest they are considering it seriously. Between January and September last year, 32,517 Mexicans registered their U.S.-born children for Mexican citizenship at a Mexican consulate, compared with 28,687 for all 2007 and 20,791 in 2006. The 2008 total is likely to be more than 35,000, according to Mexican consular officials.

U.S. nationality has long been regarded as a prized commodity for immigrants from developing countries. Anti-illegal immigrant activists accuse Latin American migrants of giving birth to "anchor babies" in the U.S. in order to secure welfare and other benefits.

But Mexican citizenship has its own benefits. Having Mexican nationality entitles U.S.-born children of immigrants to obtain health care, education and other benefits, as well as the right to vote, in Mexico. Mexican nationals also don't face restrictions on land and business ownership that apply to foreigners.

Mexican consulates also report they have experienced a spike in applications for a "personal-effects permit" that entitles its nationals to transfer their household goods to Mexico without paying import duties.

Meanwhile, applications for the "matricula consular," an identity card that Mexicans in the U.S. need to open bank accounts and conduct other business, such as rent an apartment, appear to be declining. Through the first nine months of 2008, 689,150 Mexican adults had applied for the identity card nationwide. That compares with 947,000 for all of 2006.

"They tell me they are registering their children because they are returning to Mexico or making plans to return," said Mexican Vice Consul Federico Bass in San Bernardino, Calif., a consulate that oversees an area home to more than one million Mexicans.

At a Los Angeles-area strip mall, 40 Hispanic immigrant day laborers gathered early in the morning hoping to snare work landscaping, moving furniture or painting houses. By noon, only one had been hired.

"In the old days, you wouldn't find a soul here at this time," said Braulio Gonzalez, a veteran day laborer who still lingered at midday Wednesday. "There are so many more people and so much less work."

At many corners, day laborers who had agreed never to work for less than $15 an hour are underbidding each other when an employer shows up. Mr. Gonzalez says he lost a drywall job to a fellow immigrant willing to work for half that amount earlier this week. "Competition is fierce," says Mr. Gonzalez.

Ms. Rivera and her husband, Felipe Perez, say many of their friends are ensuring their American kids get Mexican citizenship. "Some of them have already left. Others, like us, want to make sure they're ready if we decide to leave," says Mr. Perez.

Mr. Perez, who works as a waiter for a Los Angeles company that caters events for corporations and universities, says he once worked six days a week. Since November, "I've only been working twice or three times a week," he says. "Our savings are shrinking fast."

[Over the Border]

Unemployment Hits Hispanics

The unemployment rate for foreign-born Hispanics hit 8% in the fourth quarter of 2008 compared with 5.1% in the same quarter a year earlier, according to the report by the Pew Hispanic Center. Read the report.

Think about it. If a family is having financial problems, they aren't as likely to hire the illegal to do yard work, home improvements, or childcare. This is not such a prevalent activity here, but we still have our share of illegals too. Lowe's building center has bilingual store information signs for a reason! In California, for example, it is common for even middle class families to hire illegals. They know it is wrong, but everyone is doing it so it is one of those infractions that just is winked at.

 

 

 

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