Only at the very bottom of the list did researchers find a scant 1.7 percent of respondents who said their return was influenced by anti-immigrant rhetoric.
And when returning immigrants arrived back in Mexico, more believed that they were better able to find jobs, become self-employed and make more business investments in their communities as a result of their experiences north of the border.
Once home, the 600 returning immigrants who sat for in-depth interviews reported holding a very positive view of the U.S. and a genuine respect for its system of laws and processes.
More than half said they will not return to the U.S., but 30 percent did say they planned to come back — most likely because about half of them left family behind in the U.S.
Notably, of those who said they planned to return, more than 90 percent made clear that they wish to someday return legally.
Though MATT’s research was conducted as part of its “Yo Soy Mexico” (”I am Mexico”) initiative, which works to match returning immigrants with job, education and investment opportunities in Mexico, this eye-opening data must give pause to those of us primarily concerned with immigration reform efforts stateside.
Understanding that the ebbing of one of the largest migrations in history was not due to our own flagging economy but rather a reflection of the strong pull of family, culture and life “back home” in Mexico speaks to our country’s need for flexible guest worker programs.
Such a change in how people can come here and then return would allow our border security measures to focus on regulating illegal immigration instead of inadvertently causing temporary workers to feel like they have to stay put here or be banished from this country forever.
“This is a big eye-opening moment,” said Aracely Garcia-Granados, executive director of MATT. “We were under the assumption that all these people want is to come and stay, to take advantage of everything and that we need to keep them out. Instead, we confirm that Mexican migration is circular and that immigrants have a great respect for our system of laws and want to do things legally.”
For me, the findings underscore how an immigration reform offering legalization, as opposed to a politically fraught expedited pathway to citizenship, could be a workable compromise. Giving workers the legal right to live and work in both countries at different times of their lives would benefit the economies of Mexico and the United States.
Esther J. Cepeda is a columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.