January 13, 2006

Youth Migration on the Rise

By Rodrigo Vera

Part One

(Editor’s Note: The following piece is part one of a two-part series that focuses on a recent migration report by Mexican researchers Blanca Villaseñor and Jose Moreno Mena.)

In their report “The Truncated Hope,” Mexican researchers Blanca Villaseñor and Jose Moreno Mena provide additional evidence about the increased migration of Mexican youth to the United States. Drawing on data culled from the experiences of undocumented youthful migrants detained or sheltered in the Tijuana and Mexicali regions of Baja California, the authors report big leaps in teenage migration after 1996, citing for example, a Mexican National Migration Institute statistic that revealed overall youth migration increased 50 percent from 1999 to 2000.

“A great number of adolescent youth, males as well as females, are joining the migratory process,” write the authors of “The Truncated Hope.” “This fact is of great importance, because due to their condition (youthful migrants) become one of the most vulnerable groups and without the most basic rights.”

While the total numbers of youthful migrants are sketchy, Villaseñor and Moreno give details about the gender, educational background, labor experience and motivations of adolescent migrants. More than 90 percent of the group examined-92 percent to be precise-were between 15 and 17 years-of age. Most came from traditional migrant-expelling states-Michoacan, Jalisco and Guanajuato-, but “more and more states from the south of the country are turning into zones of expulsion,” according to Villaseñor and Moreno.

The two authors report that most teenagers who travel to the US have limited formal education, with some differences between males and females. For example, only 24 percent of males and 27 percent of females finished middle school, a striking 1 percent of each gender group completed high school. Before traveling to the US, 65 percent of the migrants worked and 34 percent went to school. Although a 66.1 percent majority said they went to the US to find better working and living conditions, almost 20 percent departed to join relatives and friends already in El Norte. Nearly 7 percent left their homes to study north of the border, while 5.5 percent gave nebulous reasons, alluding to the Hollywood-created Land of Milk and Honey.

Once inside the US, 60 percent of the youth found work as agricultual laborers, service workers, gardeners, and others. Villaseñor’s and Moreno’s report coincides in some respects with recent a recent study from the Pew Foundation that contended most Mexicans who travel to the US already have jobs and are moving north simply in search of higher wages. However, Villaseñor and Moreno say unemployment is a growing factor. They cite statistics from Mexi-co’s National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Informatics that report more than 1.5 million people older than 14 years of age look for work but cannot find it.

The two researchers note that Mexico needs to create more than 1 million jobs per year, but only about 400,000 jobs a year were created during each year of the Fox Administration. An estimated 515,000 jobs were lost in Mexico during the first three months of 2005, a figure “without precedent in Mexico,” according to the report

Villaseñor and Moreno say that for Mexican youth, as well as adults, migration has been one of three “escape valves” in their country. The other two are drug trafficking and the informal economy, an activity frequently characterized by the street-side sale of pirated recordings or illegally imported goods from the Far East and elsewhere.

Reprinted from “El Proceso”.

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