Seeing Mexican Immigration Clearly by Douglas S. Massey

On Sunday Douglas S. Massey responded to Richard Rodriguez’s Monday article Mexicans in America. Here is a teaser of what his response contained:

To Americans who fear cultural displacement, I say look at what’s happening south of the border. Cultural influences travel in both directions and in an integrated economy they are inevitable. Given the global hegemony of the United States, however, the cultural effects are asymmetric. We influence Mexican culture and society far more than their they affect U.S. culture and society. Within Mexico, Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Toys ‘R Us, and 7-11 are increasingly displacing Mexican outlets. Even Taco Bell is making inroads, and American cultural traditions such as Halloween and Santa Claus now compete with Mexican celebrations such as Day of the Dead and Three Kings Day.

Linguistically, English-speakers certainly have nothing to fear. English is increasingly spoken in Mexico and is viewed as essential for social and economic advancement. Even the smallest towns and cities in Mexico have bustling English language academies, and English has become a core part of the Spanish spoken by most Mexicans. Within the United States, in contrast, few Anglo-Americans speak Spanish and although it may be widely spoken among new immigrants, there is a rapid shift to English over time. Few of children of immigrants use Spanish rather than English and virtually none of their grandchildren can speak it at all.

Mexican immigrants do not migrate to take advantage of U.S. social services. Their service usage rates are well below those of other immigrant groups and have fallen sharply since the mid-1990s. Undocumented migrants, in particular, are more likely to pay taxes than to use public services, and even those they do use—mainly education and medical care—are consumed at rates well below what one would expect given their socioeconomic characteristics. The problem of paying for services to immigrants is serious, but one that is easily solved through federal transfers. Whereas tax revenues accrue disproportionately to the federal government, the costs of immigration are borne locally.

Mexico is not a threat to U.S. national security. It is an ally and friendly trading nation that annually spends less than 0.8% of GDP on its military. There are a million U.S. citizens living in Mexico and ten million Mexicans living in the United States, all of whom have multiple ties of kinship, friendship, and commerce that cross the border. Tourism is extensive and large shares of citizens in both countries have spent time on the other side of the border. Mexico has no resident Islamic community, no known terrorist cells, and has never been a launching pad for terrorist attacks on the United States. Those attributes describe our neighbor to the north, not our neighbor to the south.

The full article can be found here.

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