America has fought a long-standing battle against allowing Mexicans into their country. What started as a trend of boys sneaking across the border for a summer job, has turned into a financial crisis of helping to house, feed and care for hundreds of asylum seekers that appear daily. Families flock to the border and claim that they are escaping “gang violence, sexual abuse, death threats and persistent poverty” and it has caused a strain on the system. Multiple political parties have tried and failed to rehaul the immigration system and put an end to migrants. The current president Trump have called for the construction of a wall which is now largely abandoned but that has not vanquished his desire to lock down on the “invasion” – as he calls it.
On the other end of the spectrum, Americans are escaping their homeland in search of cheaper accommodation and lower living expenses south of the border. One of the contributing factors is the high amount of people living on the streets – the homeless in America is more than capable to afford an apartment in Tijuana. The poor can live comfortably, and the well-to-do, like kings. According to a report from the National Association of Realtors: a two-bedroom apartment in San Diego fetches up to $2,030 a month and renters could find similar accommodation in Mexico for only $300.
Aside from the apparent housing crisis that has plagued the lower income holders of America, there is a flip side to this phenomenon: more and more Mexicans are going home due to the influx of Americans in their country. The Post reports that the Americans immigrants have boosted the Mexican economy and are transforming neighborhoods and schools. In a 2015 survey conducted by Pew, the results were much more positive than those of the previous years. Up to 10% more Mexican adults polled that life is neither better nor worse in America or Mexico.
In May, Mexico “estimated that the U.S.-born population in Mexico had reached 799,0000 — a number that has quadrupled since 1990”. However, the U.S. Embassy reports that the number is likely to upwards of 1.5 million. While most Americans move to Mexico in a bid to find a more affordable and sustainable lifestyle, many go in search of a retirement home.
Cross country moving is already a prevalent culture in America, for youths to head to the city for fame and success and older generations moving to quieter towns to settle down and raise their family. What is going a little further south, where everything is much more affordable? Granted, it might not be as safe as America is made out to be, but with the lax gun laws and high crime rates, Mexico is beginning to feel a lot like home.
Americans also find that the culture in Mexico – like their weather – is a lot warmer. Neighbours are extended families and people look out for each other. Nichols, an immigrant America from Colorado speaks candidly regarding this: “If you’re rich, you have access to lots of materials. If you get sick, you can buy medicine. If you get bored, you can buy entertainment. And you can basically be a terrible person if you want to without it necessarily affecting your survival… But if you’re poor, there might be a day when you don’t have food. Or you get sick and you need your neighbour to take care of you. So, you have to be nice and you have to maintain those relationships with your family and your neighbour and your community. You need to have people around you that are going to bring you food. I see that all the time in Mexico.”
Another breed of immigrant Americans treat Mexico as a holiday destination – these digital nomads see the world as a destination and their one true goal is to explore every crevice and climb every mountain. Whether armed with just a backpack or living out of a van, travellers make up a significant amount of Americans now living in Mexico. While most do not intend to settle down and make Mexico their home, the truth is that many do not have proper documentation and could effectively drop off the grid, if they so wish.
It is no secret that many Americans have overstayed their 6 month visa, and Mexican authorities have made it a point to highlight the fact that the government has not enforced laws on the lax visa problem, saying that “we like people who come to work and help the economy of the city – like Mexicans do in the United States”.
Could this open up new doors for an immigration alliance between America and Mexico? Or is the data skewed and that these ‘immigrant Americans’ are in fact, second generation Mexicans actually returning back to their motherland? Without hard data due to the messy immigration system in both lands, it is hard to determine for a fact which is true.