Foreign Policy Blogs

The Career Minded Immigrant: Redefining Facts in the U.S. Immigration Debate

Mexico City (SECTUR)

The Washington Post published a very informative article this week about Mexican immigration to the United States and the logical and progressive nature of immigration and investment coming from mostly illegal immigration to the U.S. Currently, the immigration rate from Mexico to the United States is balanced with many Mexicans returning to Mexico after years of low paying work in the U.S. One of the main investors in Mexico as a whole are Mexicans who send money from abroad back to their families in Mexico. With billions of dollars coming into Mexico from years of low paying work and the struggling U.S. jobs market, many Mexicans are returning to their towns in Mexico and reinvesting in their communities. With new houses and recobbled streets coming with their return to Mexico, many former construction and field workers have become entrepreneurs in the process.

While done in jest, the creators of the show South Park addressed this issue in a comedic way showing an episode where Mexicans sought to leave the U.S. by sneaking back across the border, leaving many low paying jobs in the U.S. to the detriment of the Americans themselves. While the push to return to Mexico was done in the episode for the sake of pride, they do address the poor economy as the U.S. border patrol seeks to stop Mexicans from leaving the U.S. in the end. Popular culture and statistical evidence shows that the real nature of Mexican immigration to the U.S. was for individuals to provide a better life for their families, and in the process, an exchange of cultural values have taken place. American companies benefited from low cost labor while those workers have planned and saved in a society that has likely always planned to make decent savings and send it back home to have a better life and grow the middle class from abroad. With a defined class structure in Mexico, the only option for those not born into the middle class was to go and work in a high value economy for the American middle class themselves. These clear statistics are starting to change the debate as it is no longer about poor Mexicans wanting to come to the U.S. to become Americans, it is about those born with little opportunities working with one of the strongest middle classes in the world in order to create an equality of opportunity for their families in the future in Mexico.

In many developed countries with high numbers of immigrants, there is always a debate about how policies can shape and define newcomers in society while balancing the rights of those current and future citizens. In the United States, with so many millions of illegal immigrants tied into an already large population and innovative economy, it is often an exercise in futility when creating traditional immigration policies as it is almost impossible to enforce the laws in place. Any understanding of the immigration issue in the U.S. must first recognize that for illegal immigrants, there is a structure and network of investment and funding going back to Mexico and other countries in order to support their own communities. For many, it is about becoming proud and free Americans; for others, it is about making sure that their families have a future in Mexico itself. The only way to stop illegal immigration is to improve opportunities in Mexico, or as stated in the South Park episode mentioned above, make the US so horrible that illegals will voluntarily leave. The reality is that with the growth of countries like China, India, Brazil and Mexico, the 70 year long push to pull millions out of poverty is working to some degree. A view on immigration from different perspectives is the only process that will achieve any healthy policy debates on the immigration issue — debates that may allow scared political leaders to agree on an effective process for those who are building their towns back home or those seeking a new life and new freedoms in the U.S. itself.

  • Ali

    “The only way to stop illegal immigration is to improve opportunities in Mexico, or as stated in the South Park episode mentioned above, make the US so horrible that illegals will voluntarily leave. The reality is that with the growth of countries like China, India, Brazil and Mexico, the 70 year long push to pull millions out of poverty is working to some degree.”
    ——–Yup, Mexican illegal aliens are doing what we’ve expected of foreign students for years: take what they’ve learned here back to their home countries to make those countries the better for it. All the more reason not to offer another amnesty or “path to legalization”, enforce the law, and to even cut back on our legal immigration except for nuclear families and workers with extremely scarce or unique skills and education.

    • Richard Basas

      Hi Ali

      As someone from a foreign country who did work and study in the US and now works abroad with US organisations, the reason we bring people from other countries to the US or to other countries is because they usually stay where they study and improve their new communities. If they do not, often they go somewhere else but maintain contacts and ties to the US where they received their training, creating links and opportunities between the US and places abroad. Opening up the US to more opportunities and getting the best people in their field to come and often stay in the US is a net positive for the US and keeps the most skilled people developing and promoting the US. Some countries do this but use the foreign nationals as a comsumer of their universities and lose out in the end as they do not give the opportunity to develop ties or keep these skilled people. If the end result is that the US gains access to the best and brightest and growing markets abroad, then the US should and does encourage this process. If there is a fear that the country with the best schools and most innovative people are losing out because they bring the brightest from abroad and creates ties and opportunities worldwide because they have a great system to develop the best and brightest, than America will lose its natural advantage as the largest and most innovative country in the world by retracting from the world itself.


Richard Basas
Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration