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The Lure Of The Dollar

As many as a half-million Mexicans will migrate to the United States each year over the next 30 years, according to a new government report that also predicts that the flow of people from south to north will be slowed slightly by improved economics in Mexico.

The report, compiled by the National Population Council and issued Tuesday, predicted there could be 18.2 million Mexicans living in the United States by 2030. That is based on some 400,000 to 500,000 coming each year.

Of the 8 million Mexicans who currently live in the United States, the report said, some 3 million crossed the border illegally. The U.S. population also includes more than 14 million people who are descendants of Mexican immigrants, it states.

"Migration between Mexico and the United States is a permanent, structural phenomenon," it states. "It is built on real factors, ranging from geography, economic inequality and integration, and the intense relationship between the two countries, that make it inevitable."

The latest round of migrants increasingly include women and migrants more willing to make multiple attempts at crossing. It will also include more people from southern Mexico who have never tried to cross the border before.

Between 1997 and 2000, the ratio of women crossing the border rose from 3.3 percent of all migrants to 6 percent. The number of Indians crossing the border also rose sharply. By 2000, 8 percent of all migrants were Indians.

The report also found that the ratio of migrants who obtained work permits or visas and crossed the border legally fell from 50 percent of all migrants between 1993 and 1997 to just 38 percent by 2000.

In the same period, the ratio of Mexicans making their first border crossing — as opposed to those who cross, return to Mexico, and cross again — rose from 30 percent of all migrants to 53 percent.

Of the total, only 2.3 percent reported returning to Mexico because they couldn't find U.S. jobs and just 12.5 percent reported being caught by U.S authorities and deported.

The council's report also states that Mexico receives more money sent home by migrants than any other country, about $6 billion annually. But, it found that those funds usually go to support families who live at a subsistence level in Mexico, and thus are unlikely to spark economic development.

The number of households in Mexico receiving money sent home by relatives working in the United States rose from $600,000 in 1992 to $1.25 million in 2000. For 40 percent of those households, the remittances — averaging between $3,000 and $4,000 per year — are their only source of cash income, the report concluded.

By Mark Stevenson
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