Emigration to Mexico

One of the more contentious issues of our time is immigration, particularly illegal immigration from Mexico. Many conservatives fear an ever growing tide of immigrants who refuse to assimilate or become productive citizens and so become reliable Democratic voters. Many liberals hope for an ever growing tide of immigrants who refuse to assimilate or become productive citizens and so become reliable Democratic voters. Yet, there are signs that this debate is starting to become somewhat anachronistic as Mexico begins to develop economically and its birthrates decline. It may well be that in the not too distant future that Mexico will become the sort of country that people want to move to rather than leave. Walter Russell Mead writes about this in a couple of posts.

Mexicans don’t want to leave their native country any more than Americans do theirs, according to a new Gallup Poll. Only 11 percent of Mexicans said they would emigrate if given the chance, down from 21 percent in 2007 and equal to the 11 percent of Americans who would do the same.

Fears that America will be overrun by a mass of poor workers from Latin America are looking more and more like yesterday’s news. Birthrates in Mexico are falling, and the economic situation continues to improve. At 5 percent, Mexico’s unemployment rate is nearly three points below ours. In 2012, its GDP grew by nearly 4 percent, and foreign investors, encouraged by the turnaround, poured $57 billion into stocks and bonds in the first nine months. Forthcoming reforms in the telecommunications and energy sectors may also help those industries to boom. The country’s economic forecasts are so promising that the Financial Times has dubbed it the “Aztec tiger.”

This is good news. As the Mexican economy improves, immigration pressures will continue to abate. Who knows? If the trends continue, maybe we’ll even see southbound migrants outnumbering northbound ones.

Another four years of Obama may well turn America into the sort of third world sewer that people risk their lives trying to escape. What of the Mexicans already in this country? Will they fail to assimilate, remain trapped in low paying jobs or government relief and so become Democratic voters forever? Maybe, but maybe not. Mead talks about some interesting changes.

There’s a lotof talk these days that the GOP has lost American Hispanics “forever.” A recent poll by Gallup suggests the picture may be a litte more complex. After the November Presidential election, some Dems hoped and Gopers fretted that the Republican Party face imminent death unless it attracted more Hispanic voters by changing it’s immigration position. But if Gallup is right, some other factors might be at work.

The poll doesn’t look all that political on its face. The survey found that 60 percent of Hispanic Protestants are very religious—measured by weekly service attendance and how important the respondents said religion was to them—compared to only 43 percent of Hispanic Catholics. In addition, the number of Hispanic Catholics has declined over time, while the number of Hispanic Protestants has stayed steady:

Overall, the finding that younger Hispanics are proportionately more Protestant and that all Hispanics are becoming proportionately more Protestant over time suggest that the percentage of Hispanics who are Catholic may continue to slip in the years to come…This will be particularly true if today’s young Hispanics maintain their proportionally higher Protestant identification.

Mead discusses the possible future of the Catholic Church in America, and the institutional changes which have made it less helpful to new immigrants, and so less likely to command their long term loyalty. I am more interested in the political implications.

But the most startling implications of the trends reported by the survey are political. Being religiously observant in any faith correlates strongly with voting Republican; this goes double for evangelical Protestantism. There are exceptions to this trend, of course. Many Black Christians who theologically and culturally fit in the evangelical tradition are reliable Democratic voters. But overall the correlation holds: evangelical Protestants who spend a lot of time in church are among the most reliably Republican voters in the country.

If a lot of Hispanics are picking up their Bibles and heading off to church, this suggests that over time the GOP share of the Hispanic vote will grow.  Over the decades, another trend will likely reinforce that one: as immigrant groups become better established in the United States, their economic interests and their issue priorities often change in ways that benefit the GOP.

Take immigration. This is a burning issue with serious personal stakes in many Hispanic households in America today. But Polish-American and Italian-American households don’t necessarily feel the same way. On the one hand, each succeeding American generation is a little farther from the homeland and the family ties are a little more attenuated; on the other, as other countries develop and their demography changes, there is less interest in the old country in coming to the new.

We will have to see what happens. I would caution anyone who is predicting the long term dominance of either political party not to be too certain. I seriously doubt that we will see again a forty year period of time in which one party is in complete, or near complete control of the government, predictions of demographic changes notwithstanding.

The Republicans really ought to do more to peel away some African-American voters from the Democrats. The fact that 90% of the Black vote Democrat these days has been an absolute disaster for them, witness Detroit.

 

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