2004 July 21 Wednesday
Many Mexican Immigrant Men Abandon Families In Mexico

The Christian Science Monitor has an article on men who leave Mexico to sneak into United States and who then abandon their families they left behind.

San Pablito is emblematic. It now has some 70 madres solteras, or single moms like Mrs. Bocato de la Pila, struggling to care for their children because their husbands abandoned them for a better life in the US. Six years ago, her husband left to be a house painter in Durham, N.C. She says he never sent anything home to support her or their two daughters. Lucia Aparicio Espiritu's husband also left for North Carolina around the same time. She hasn't heard from him since, despite his promise to send money for his son. Mrs. Aparicio later found out her husband met another woman and has two other sons.

"Men promise to send money, but they slowly stop," says the Rev. Javier Galindo Castro, a priest in the nearby town of Pahuatlán. "I know one mother in San Pablito who received $100 after 15 days. Then another two months passed before she received more money. Then nothing."

Mexico would benefit far more from a growing domestic economy than it does from money flowing back from immigrants living both legally and illegally in the United States.

In spite of the supposed benefits of cash sent home by illegal aliens working in the US and the lower trade barrieres brought by NAFTA per capita GDP has declined during Vicente Fox's term as President of Mexico.

During Fox's regime, Mexicans have seen continued erosion of purchasing power and job opportunities, the two key issues every government since the 1982 debt crisis has struggled to address.

With a GDP of nearly $1 trillion dollars the amount sent home by Mexicans in the US amounts to only about 1.4% of the Mexican GDP.

Each month the Gils wire between $100 and $200 back to Piaxtla. It's just some of the $13.3 billion sent home by Mexicans last year, up from $9.8 billion the year before, according to the Bank of Mexico. It reports that remittances are already up 22 percent this year.

Of course, if millions of Mexicans hadn't left Mexico in the first place the Mexican economy would be bigger because it would have more workers. Though they would not be getting paid as much as they do in the United States. The problem is that the jobs they have in the US are subsidized by US taxpayers who pay for their police, courts, jails, medical costs, education for their kids, welfare, and many other costs. Market prices do not equal costs when it comes to wages in the United States.

The amount sent to Mexico and other countries by immigrants in the US is dwarfed by the costs of immigrants to the US taxpayers and society as a whole.

A more recent Columbia University study pegs the net cost of immigration at $52 billion a year, or about half of 1 percent of gross domestic product, the nation's total output of goods and services.

"Generally, people don't want to hear these results," says David Weinstein, economist and coauthor with Donald Davis of the Columbia study. "They want to hear why immigration is good for America. We get a big number [for costs]. That makes it politically charged."

Think of it this way: You have to permanently pay more in higher taxes, crowding, pollution, higher crime rates, and more affirmative action racial preferences (many of which costs are probably not part of the Columbia University cost/benefit model) support indirect and temporary foreign aid to countries that show little sign of deriving much benefit from that aid.

The immigrants will gradually taper off the amount of money they send back to Mexico and other Latin American countries as they have children and form more connections in immigrant communities in the US. But the costs to the American people from the various costs of immigrants and the poor group average scholastic achievements of Hispanic immigrants will be generating costs for Americans for generations to come.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 July 21 04:40 PM  Immigration Economics

John S Bolton said at July 21, 2004 8:59 PM:

Officials cannot try to benefit the foreigner if net expense to the citizenry is involved; to do otherwise fits the essence of treachery. The implications of the Weinstein-Davis theory (online as:'Technological superiority and the losses from migration') would seem to be that there is a huge economic force that would push us, through immigration, back towards the global average of productivity. As if it were artificial that any country has moved ahead on per-capita production, because that would call forth a migration which would bring it back to the mean of the world. Likewise, mass immigration imposes a backward pressure on our economic development, if per capita improvement is the standard.

noone said at July 22, 2004 2:18 AM:

"Likewise, mass immigration imposes a backward pressure on our economic development, if per capita improvement is the standard."

Many point to Japan's demographics and insist immigration is the only possible solution.The Japanese disagree and have developed ,or are developing,an array of technology to deal with this situation,in contrast to ours,where immigration has retarded R&D in several areas,such as mechanized agriculture.

John S Bolton said at July 22, 2004 3:00 AM:

You are right that Japan seems to have benefited from its relative lack of openness to immigrants, and specifically with regard to production. If this were not so, how is it possible that they've been subsidizing this country of mass anti-merit immigration? We are getting over $400 billion a year from an operation of their central bank, which expands credit in order to buy our government paper on that extraordinary scale, and then buries it in their banking system. If importing diversity is riches, how is that the countries of immigration (U.S., Australia, Argentina, Brazil etc.) must put out the begging bowl before the ultra-homogenous, immigrant-booting nations?

D.J. McGuire said at July 22, 2004 4:42 AM:


One of the most critical pieces of the puzzle is being missed: why Mexico's economy has tanked recently.

There are several factors, but one very big one is largely ignored: Mexico is now losing 100,000 jobs annually to Communist China. The Mexican government still has tariffs for PRC goods, but the Commies are getting around that by sending them to California, and then sneaking the goods over the border.

The implications are tremendous - Mexico actually has an incentive for a well-policed border. While we need to stop the people coming north, they need to stop the Red Chinese goods coming south.

Of course, President Fox doesn't see the wisdom of this. Then again, neither does President Bush. Mexico has another election in 2K6; one can only hope the PRI or PRD opposition parties pick up and run with this issue.

John S Bolton said at July 22, 2004 8:58 PM:

Another aspect of the Weinstein-Davis account mentioned above is that it indicates a net cost from immigration to a country like this, which would exist even if every immigrant were strictly forbidden from receiving net public subsidy. Though it is not practical, one could imagine that every immigrant might be required to have an endowment sufficient to cover their subsidy. If that were the case, there would still be this cost from loss of comparative advantage that otherwise accrues to the more productive nation. The authors of that study are saying that it is over $1500 per immigrant per year in America. If the government uses net public subsidy of immigrants in the overwhelming proportion of cases, doesn't this additional cost to the citizen from unfavorable moves in terms of trade, amount to aggression on the citizen?

Mike Quinlan said at July 23, 2004 1:43 PM:

According to a report prepared in 1990, undocumented immigrants paid $547 million in Illinois state tax, while the national aggregate contribution equaled $7 billion. Surprisingly, The Urban Institute also found that undocumented immigrants contributed a national total of $2.7 billion to Social Security and another $168 million to unemployment insurance taxes, both programs they will be unable to access because of their legal status. Furthermore, its estimated that there are roughly 7.8 million undocumented immigrants actively working in the US. They are being paid, not out of the goodness of anybody's heart, but rather because it is profitable to hire them.

Randall Parker said at July 23, 2004 2:04 PM:


Many end up becomng eligible for Social Security because they eventually get citizenship. Also, you apparently missed the recent US-Mexico deal on Social Security benefits. The amount paid out under that deal is going to grow much larger in the out years.

But the point is that they pay far less in taxes than they receive in benefits. I've presented the results of various studies to that effect. You choose to ignore them. I can not help you.

birch barlow said at July 23, 2004 2:13 PM:

They are being paid, not out of the goodness of anybody's heart, but rather because it is profitable to hire them.

But the real question is: would hiring illegal immigrants (and legal unskilled immigrants) be profitable were immigrant labor not subsidized? The answer seems to be a resounding "NO." Remember that employers must only pay wages and possibly a small social security tax for their new immigrant workers (assuming they are not hiring illegal aliens and paying them in cash)--they don't pay for the education, health care, transportation, policing, courts, jails, fire protection, etc. of each new immigrant they hire. Native-born and established immigrant workers also face lower wages and higher unemployment due to mass unskilled immigration. This not only harms unskilled workers in the U.S. directly but indirectly can impose increased tax burdens on the middle class, since poorer people are likely to use/demand more taxpayer-funded services.

Even those studies finding that immigration is a wash or somewhat of a net benefit don't necessarily suggest that *unskilled* immigration is an economic wash or net benefit. It seems pretty clear that skilled immigrants are benefitting the economy--they contribute to innovation, and generally provide a strong tax base and have high buying power. This means any study that lumps skilled and unskilled immigrants is likely to show a misleading picture--the benefits of skilled immigration likely cover up the costs of unskilled immigration.

John S Bolton said at July 28, 2004 9:20 PM:

Another way to estimate the total net public subsidy of immigrants, is to use Donald Huddle's 'public costs of immigration'. This study appears to exclude the cost of immigrant's children in public schools, who are not themselves foreign-born. Add to his total the cost of more than 7 million such students at more than $7,000 per year each. Huddle's estimate of ~$125 billion for this year, adjusted for inflation from '96, becomes ~$175 billion, with these additions. Searching for 'U.S. criminal justice expenditures' uncovers another source of additional subsidy. Huddle gives $3 billion, but the foreign-born are today 10%, and 10% of today's figure of over $170 billion, is over $17 billion. Interest is chargeable to those who go on net public subsidy, since the government continually uses deficit financing. Add even the lowest charge of this kind, and the net public subsidy of these immigrants is in the hundreds of billions a year, and rising rapidly. Being twice as likely to be in the age ranges which have almost all the schoolchildren, they are also twice as likely as the general public to have children in the public schools. This is the reason why immigration is so expensive.

John S Bolton said at August 1, 2004 7:17 PM:

The current issue of the census' facts for features, back to school category, says we're spending $435 billion or more on over 49 million public school students.This would be close to 54 million elementary and secondary school students, minus 10% attending private school. The per-student figure is thus above $8800. The additional expense caused by enrollment of the children of immigrants in public schools, above the numbers included in Huddle's study, could be over $60 billion. Immigrants, at about 10% of the population, have over 20% of the children enrolled in public schools. It is because of the age ranges of the foreign-born, not so much the higher birth rates found in some populations.

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