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October 2009, Volume 16, Number 4

Mexico: Migrants, Remittances, 3x1

Almost 12 million Mexican-born residents live in the US, including some seven million who are unauthorized. Mexico has 110 million residents in 2009, suggesting that 10 percent of the 122 million people born in Mexico have moved to the US.

The Pew Hispanic Center in July 2009 released a report on Mexicans moving into and out of the US. The number of Mexicans moving into the US between February 2008 and February 2009 fell to 636,000 from 814,000 a year earlier, while the number of Mexicans returning to Mexico was stable at about 435,000. As a result, the stock of Mexican-born US residents, about 11.5 million in 2009, is stable. Between 2003 and 2007, the stock of Mexican-born US residents rose by 400,000 a year.

A September 2009 poll by the Pew Research Center found that a third of all Mexicans would move to the US if they could, and half of these 36 million potential Mexican migrants are prepared to move illegally to the US. Over 55 percent of those polled in Mexico said Mexicans who move to the US have a better life despite well-known hardships, while less than 15 percent say life is worse in the US. About 40 percent of those polled have relatives or friends in the United States with whom they communicate regularly.

Remittances to Mexico, $25 billion in 2008, are likely to fall to $21 billion in 2009, bringing hardship, especially to rural places where most breadwinners are in the US. About 10 percent of Mexico's 106 million residents depend in part on remittances. Reports from towns accustomed to receiving remittances emphasize that many remittance-funded construction projects have stopped.

President Felipe Calder¢n urged cooperation to enact economic reforms and support anti-drug policies in his annual Informe or state of the nation address in September 2009. The Mexican government spends almost 20 percent of GDP but collects only half that in taxes; most of the difference is financed with money from PEMEX, the state oil monopoly. Newspapers estimate the number of drug-related killings at more than 13,600 since Calder¢n took office in December 2006.

Public support for Calderon has been falling, especially with the expected seven percent contraction of the Mexican economy in 2009.

3x1. Mexico has had a widely discussed 3x1 program since 2002 to match contributions made to Mexicans in the US via Hometown Associations to improve the infrastructure of migrant-sending areas of Mexico. The 3x1 program provides $3 in federal, state and local funds for each $1 contributed by HTAs for water, sewer, road and similar infrastructure projects. HTAs propose the projects, and Mexican government agencies vet and approve them before providing the matching funds.

The program operates in 27 of Mexico's 32 states, but most 3x1 funds are spent in the four western Mexican states that are the sources of most Mexicans in the US? Guanajuato, Zacatecas, Jalisco, and Michoac n.

The 3x1 program is very small in relation to Mexico's annual remittances? 458 million pesos ($38 million) in federal (Sedesol) funds were available in 2008, when 2,500 projects were supported. About 40 percent of these projects involved paving roads. The federal government contributes up to 800,000 pesos ($60,000) per project.

In 2008, a 1x1 Migrant Business Fund was established to provide subsidized loans to Mexicans in the US who want to invest in Mexico. Migrant entrepreneurs must submit business plans to the Mexican development agency Sedesol, which can grant up to 300,000 pesos ($22,600) to help establish a business in Mexico.

The movie "Sleep Dealer" imagines a world in which Mexicans in Mexico operate machinery in the US via remote control to pack meat, pick oranges, and build buildings. The premise of the movie is that the world is evolving into a place in which technology but not low-skilled workers cross borders, extending what the WTO calls cross-border trade in services, as with call centers, to many other jobs.

Passel, Jeffrey and D'Vera Cohn. 2009. Mexican Immigrants: How Many Come? How Many Leave? Pew Hispanic Center.