Many Mexicans Say Immigration Inevitable

The Associated Press
Sunday, April 23, 2006; 6:12 PM

ATOTONILCO, Mexico -- They name their babies Johnny and Leslie, so certain are they that their kids' future lies in the United States. Returning migrants sprinkle English into their speech as they talk knowingly about job markets in U.S. towns.

America may want to stop illegal immigration, but most Mexicans accept it as a fact of life they can't imagine changing.

Mexico's economy, society and political system are built around the assumption that migration and amnesties for undocumented migrants will continue _ and that the $20 billion they send home every year will keep coming, and almost certainly grow.

In fact, the government is counting on continued cash from a Mexican-born U.S. population it predicts will rise from 11 million to between 17.9 million and 20.4 million by 2030.

"There have been amnesties and reforms before, and they will continue to occur periodically," said Jesus Cervantes, director of statistics for Mexico's Central Bank.

President Vicente Fox is one of many Mexican who considers the migrants "heroes," because they send money to their impoverished home villages, and in some cases risk death walking into America in pitiless desert sun.

Many families give their babies "American" names, figuring it will help them fit in when they make the inevitable trip north. In one central Mexican village, men on a dusty side road knowingly discuss which Long Island towns are best for day-labor work.

Cervantes avoids using the common metaphor of migration as an escape valve for Mexico's social tensions, but says the country of 105 million people would be in trouble if 11 million migrants returned en masse.

On the ground, the lure of America is evident. Abelardo Gonzalez, an elementary school director in the southern state of Oaxaca, said of his students: "From the time they are little kids, they have this idea of going north."

So many people have left the farming town of Atotonilco in central Tlaxcala state, 480 miles from the U.S. border, that a sort of U.S. job placement network has grown up. Migrants send word home of a vacancy for a gardener in Los Angeles, a carpenter in Houston or a dishwasher in Raleigh, N.C.

"A lot of people who leave already have jobs lined up," said Daniel Escalona Garcia, who sells building materials _ largely for homes being built for absent migrants.

When those homes will be inhabited is another question. Many remain half-built, or are finished but empty. It's common to see a well-built, two-story home being used to store hay. Skilled construction workers are scarce because most are in the United States.

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