“It’s now easier to buy homes on credit, find a job and access higher education in Mexico,” Sacramento’s Mexican consul general, Carlos González Gutiérrez, said Wednesday. “We have become a middle-class country.”
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An estimated 300,000 undocumented immigrants have left California since 2008, though the remaining 2.6 million still make up 7 percent of the population and 9 percent of the labor force, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.
Among metropolitan areas with more than 1 million residents, Sacramento County ranks among the lowest, with an unauthorized population of 4.6 percent of its 1.4 million residents in 2008, according to Laura Hill, a demographer with the PPIC.
The Sacramento region, suffering from 12.3 percent unemployment and the construction bust, may have triggered a large exodus of undocumented immigrants, González Gutiérrez said.
The best-paid jobs for undocumented migrants are in the building industry, “and because of the severe crisis in the construction business here, their first response has been to move into the service industry,” González Gutiérrez said. “But that has its limits. Then, they move to other areas in the U.S. to find better jobs – or back to Mexico.”
Hill said it’s hard to know whether the benefit of having fewer undocumented migrants outweighs the cost to employers and taxpayers.
California may have to provide less free education to the children of undocumented immigrants and less emergency medical care, she said, but it will also get less tax revenue.
In 2008, at least 836,100 undocumented immigrants filed U.S. tax returns in California using individual tax identification numbers known as ITINS, said Hill, who conducted the tax survey.
An analysis of local ZIP codes showed that Sacramento (95815, 95823, 95824), West Sacramento (95605), Clarksburg (95612), Esparto (95627), Guinda (95637), Knights Landing (95645), Winters (95694) and Woodland (95776) each had an undocumented population of 10 percent to 15 percent.
Yolo County relies heavily on migrant workers to grow and harvest crops.
“People in construction are now turning to agriculture; it’s the start of the tomato season so the harvesters will be jump-started pretty soon,” said Woodland Mayor Art Pimentel, whose 55,000 residents are 48 percent Latino, some of them undocumented.
Some aren’t sticking around for the upcoming tomato harvest, said Sylvina Frausto, secretary of Holy Rosary Church in Woodland. “Some have a small parcel in Mexico. They own their own home there, so instead of renting here they go back to their small business there.”
Many raise animals, run grocery stores or sell fruits and goods on street corners.
“They’re going back home because they can’t get medical help or government assistance anymore,” Frausto said, “And when it’s getting so difficult for them to find a job without proper documentation, it’s pushing them away.”
Anita Barnes, director of La Familia Counseling Center on Franklin Boulevard in Sacramento, said she recently spoke to a high school graduate who had lost his job in a restaurant and was thinking of going back to Mexico.
“He came over with his mom, who was in the process of losing her restaurant job,” Barnes said. “It’s frightening, especially for the children. They feel this is their country, they don’t know anything else, and they find they can’t get driver’s licenses or jobs.”
As its economy rebounds, Mexico “is becoming a better option than it was in the past, but you still have to find a job and reconnect,” Barnes said.
While the weakened U.S. economy, rising deportations and tougher border enforcement have led to fewer undocumented migrants, changes in Mexico are playing a significant role, González Gutiérrez said.
Mexico’s average standard of living – including health, education and per capita income – is now higher than those in Russia, China and India, according to the United Nations.
Mexico’s growing middle class “reduces the appetites to come because there are simply many more options” at home, González Gutiérrez said. “Most people who decided to migrate already have a job in Mexico and tend to be the most ambitious and attracted to the income gap between the U.S. and Mexico.”
Mexico’s economy is growing at 4 percent to 5 percent, benefiting from low inflation, exports and a strong banking system, the consul said.
Mexico’s birthrate is also declining sharply. “As a natural consequence of us transforming from a rural to an urban society, we are running out of Mexicans to export,” González Gutiérrez said. “Our society’s growing at a rate of 2.1 children per woman – in the 1970s it was more than five.”
Once the U.S. economy recovers, the flow of migrants moving north “may go up again, although most likely they will not reach the peak levels we saw in the first half of the decade,” González Gutiérrez said.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will host a free information session in Spanish at 650 Capitol Mall, second floor, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. today on how to avoid scams. Immigrants who can’t come in person or access the workshop online can call (800) 857-4862 and provide the pass code SERVICIO when asked for a password.
• For more information, visit www.uscis.gov/enlace.
A nation without borders is no nation at all. After decades of misguided policies America has now become a free-for-all. Our leaders betrayed the middle class which is forced to compete with welfare-receiving illegal immigrants who will work for almost anything, just because the standards in their home countries are even lower.
If these policies are not reversed, the future is grim. A poor, dependent and divided population is much easier to rule than a nation of self-confident individuals who can make a living on their own and who share the traditions and values that this country was founded upon.
Ron Paul’s six point plan puts a stop to illegal immigration:
- Physically secure our borders and coastlines. We must do whatever it takes to control entry into our country before we undertake complicated immigration reform proposals.
- Enforce visa rules. Immigration officials must track visa holders and deport anyone who overstays their visa or otherwise violates U.S. law. This is especially important when we recall that a number of 9/11 terrorists had expired visas.
- No amnesty. Estimates suggest that 10 to 20 million people are in our country illegally. That’s a lot of people to reward for breaking our laws.
- No welfare for illegal aliens. Americans have welcomed immigrants who seek opportunity, work hard, and play by the rules. But taxpayers should not pay for illegal immigrants who use hospitals, clinics, schools, roads, and social services.
- End birthright citizenship. As long as illegal immigrants know their children born here will be citizens, the incentive to enter the U.S. illegally will remain strong.
- Pass true immigration reform. The current system is incoherent and unfair. But current reform proposals would allow up to 60 million more immigrants into our country, according to the Heritage Foundation. This is insanity. Legal immigrants from all countries should face the same rules and waiting periods.
The facts on the ground are being created right now. Every day that passes makes it more difficult to reverse the damage that has already been done.
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