July 2012 Volume 19 Number 3
Mexico: Migration, Canada: Migrants
The Pew Hispanic Center estimated that the number of unauthorized Mexicans in the US peaked at seven million in 2007 and fell to 6.1 million in 2011. Mexicans were 58 percent of the 11.2 million unauthorized foreigners in 2011.
Pew attributed the decrease to the 2008-09 recession and falling construction employment, more border enforcement and deportations, and declining Mexican birth rates (fertility fell from an average 7.3 children per woman in 1960 to 2.4 in 2012). About 20 percent of Mexicans apprehended and returned to Mexico say they do not plan to return to the US, almost triple the stay-at-home rate of 2005.
About 10 percent of the people born in Mexico have moved to the US, some 12 million; in 1970, there were 760,000 Mexican-born US residents, less than two percent of Mexicans. Mexico is the largest source of US immigrants: 30 percent of the 40 million foreign-born US residents were born in Mexico. Almost 60 percent of Mexican-born US residents live in California and Texas.
Between 2005 and 2010, Pew estimated zero net Mexico-US migration, that is, 1.4 million Mexicans moved to the US and 1.4 million Mexicans (including 300,000 US-born children) moved to Mexico. Many of those who returned to Mexico were deported, and 46,500 Mexicans who were deported in the first half of 2011 said they had US-born children, although not all took their US-born children to Mexico. There are still Mexicans moving to the US, but entrants are matched by returns to Mexico, including US-born children of Mexican parents who return to Mexico.
In 2010, some 370,000 Hispanic immigrants (legal and illegal) entered the US, or 31 percent of all new arrivals, compared to 430,000 Asian immigrants, 36 percent. About 45 percent of Hispanic immigrants in the US are unauthorized, compared with 15 percent of Asian immigrants.
Mexicans went to the polls in July 1, 2012 to elect a new president for a six-year term. Enrique Pe¤a Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) won almost 40 percent of the vote, ending 12 years of National Action Party (PAN) leadership. Many of those who voted for Pe¤a Nieto cited Mexico's inability to create formal-sector jobs, expressing hope that he would be best at creating jobs offering at least the minimum wage and the extensive range of benefits guaranteed to formal-sector workers. About 80 million Mexicans were eligible to vote, and 60 percent or 48 million voted.
Economic growth averaged two percent a year under 12 years of PAN leadership. Pe¤a Nieto promised to open Mexico's energy sector to private investment, overhaul the tax code to raise government revenue, and change labor laws to make it easier to hire and fire workers. The PRI does not have a majority in the Mexican Congress, but PRI governors are in power in 20 of Mexico's 31 states.
Mexico has about 110 million residents and a labor force of 45 million, smaller than the usual labor force for an industrial country, which is half of the population. The Mexican census reported that 57 percent of Mexican workers earned less than $13.50 a day in 2010; many were employed in family businesses.
Pe¤a Nieto also promised to change the current strategy to deal with drugs, which has resulted in over 50,000 deaths in the past six years, by withdrawing the Mexican military from police work. The US DEA says that the current US price of pure cocaine is $177 a gram, almost 75 percent cheaper than in 1980 and down 15 percent since 2001. The US government has been spending $20 billion to $25 billion a year in its war on drugs at home and abroad. About 20 percent of the inmates in state prisons, and half of inmates in federal prisons, have been convicted of violations of drug laws.
Canada. There were 300,000 temporary foreign workers in Canada in 2011, double the 150,000 in 2007. About 190,800 foreign workers were admitted in both 2008 and 2011.
Guest workers must generally must be paid the minimum wage or the prevailing wage for the job they are filling, whichever is higher. In some provinces, prevailing wages are much higher than minimum wages, as in Alberta oil fields, $26 compared to $9.40. In April 2012, the government announced that, instead of paying temporary foreign workers the prevailing wage, employers could pay them 15 percent less. Unions and NGOs denounced the move, saying it would allow employers of foreign workers hired to fill jobs in the sectors supplying tar-sand workers to reduce their labor costs.
The government will approve employer requests for foreign workers within 10 days, but employers using this fast-track approach are subject to random audits and can be barred from bringing in more guest workers for two years if violations are found.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, in a June 2012 interview, said that the government was aiming for "transformational change to move from a slow, rigid, and passive, really a supply-driven immigration system, to a fast, flexible, and pro-active, demand-driven immigration system."
Over 4,400 Hungarians, mostly Roma, applied for asylum in Canada in 2011, making Hungary the leading source of asylum applicants. The government aims to enact bill C-31 to allow expedited hearings on asylum claims filed by persons from "safe and democratic countries." Other leading sources of asylum applicants in Canada in 2011 were China, Colombia, Pakistan, Namibia and Mexico.
Hungary was criticized by UNHCR for detaining most asylum applicants and returning Serbian applicants to Serbia, which UNHCR says is not safe.
Nathan Vanderklippe, "Does temporary foreign workers program create second class of labourers?" Globe and Mail, May 6, 2012.