Although immigration is most certainly considered a hot-button issue, there’s no denying the presence and contribution of lawful immigrants as part of the United States’ economy and culture. Many have settled over the years in different states with families following suit decades later trying to find where they ended up. Using resources (look here) that can track family members through obituaries and newspapers can help them get into contact with distant relatives that have been born in the U.S.
And there’s also no denying that immigrants from Mexico are perhaps the most-often discussed among the public at large. Despite the sometimes rocky relationship between the United States and Mexico, the fact remains a massive part of the former’s labor force in the fields of agriculture, operations and the service industry.
There are plenty of claims thrown around concerning the state of Mexican immigration in the United States, but perhaps it’s best to look at the hard numbers. Based on a comprehensive Pew Research report on immigration, here’s a glimpse at some notable statistics:
- Immigrants from Mexico make up 27% of all of the United States’ immigrant population (over 11.6 million people)
- Approximately 109,000 immigrants from Mexico arrive in the U.S. every year
- Mexican immigrants have the lowest rate of naturalization in the United States
It’s that final statistic that’s perhaps the most striking.
Considering the United States and Mexico are close neighbors geographically, and the fact that there are a myriad of immigrant communities sprinkled throughout the former, one would assume that a long-term transition toward citizenship would be straightforward.
The question remains: where’s the struggle coming from? Why is there so much hesitation when it comes to naturalization?
The reality is that the hurdles faced by Mexican immigrants often fly under the radar, especially for those who perhaps aren’t familiar with the day-to-day lives of these workers and their families. Below we’ve outlined five of the most oft-cited reasons that naturalization and assimilation represent roadblocks for Mexicans in the United States.
First and foremost, there’s the sheer stress of supporting oneself as an immigrant in an area with a sky-high cost of living on a limited income. This is doubly true for those attempting to support a family while aboard, either staying in the United States alone or immigrating with their loved ones.
Couple this with the fact that affordable housing is hard to come by for many immigrants, as is reliable work. Job-hopping isn’t uncommon even for skilled workers, oftentimes due to the short-term nature of available labor for immigrants.
As such, every penny makes a difference.
Even the process of sending money back home can be a hassle as it’s eaten up by fees and taxes. Thus the rise of services like Remitly to help keep costs down for those abroad so they can perhaps one day afford that ever-so-important green card and American Dream.
Yet considering the cost of a green card well over $1,000 as a conservative estimate, scrounging up that cash in easier said than done for those on a shoestring budget.
The Language Barrier
From formal applications to something as simple as a trip to the store, the inability to break down the language barrier stops many would-be long-term immigrant success stories in their tracks.
Many natives to the United States fail to realize that English is considered challenging language to learn. Besides, finding sufficient time to learn is hard to come by when you’re laser-focused on providing for your family.
Limited Access to Public Services
Combined with all of the above pointers, both affording and accessing services such as public transpiration or healthcare can become incredibly complicated. This ultimately leads to a lower quality of life as something as simple as scheduling and attending a doctor’s appointment seems like more trouble than it’s worth.
Whether it’s a lack of sponsorship or inability to trudge through the application process, there’s also the issue of being ineligible for a green card. Although there are workarounds for many cases of presumed eligibility, the fact remains that many people would rather just not go through the potential red tape.
Lack of Interest
Finally, keep in mind that not all immigrants have the same endgame. Perhaps they want to eventually return home following a long-term period of labor and sending home remittance payments. Maybe they simply realize that the United States is not where they want to call “home.” Either way, such immigrants certainly have the freedom of choice not to become long-term citizens.
No matter how you slice it, immigration is a complicated issue. Similarly, it’s the struggles and challenges of immigrants aren’t always glaringly obvious to natives of the U.S. With these challenges in mind, perhaps it’s easier to understand why many immigrants from Mexico ultimately don’t naturalize or assimilate all the while making the most of the opportunities available to them.