Ex Mex: From Migrants to Immigrants

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From the massive nationwide rally in support of immigrant rights in May 2006 to protests against the increasingly frequent immigration raids across the country, the public debate on immigration reform has largely centered on Mexican immigrants. Yet, in the United States, we rarely hear the Mexican perspective on the issue.

In “portraits that defy American stereotypes of who is a Mexican immigrant” (Booklist), former Mexican foreign minister and eminent scholar Jorge G. Castañeda describes just who makes up the newest generation of immigrants from Mexico, why they have chosen to live in the United States, where they work, and what they ultimately hope to achieve. Drawing on his wide-ranging experience, Casteñeda examines the century-long historical background behind the labor exchange between Mexico and the United States, while offering an insider’s account of the official conversations and secret negotiations between the two countries in recent years.

Both authoritative and timely, Ex Mex is essential reading for all who want to make sense of the complex issue of immigration.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A straightforward, useful guide to the two countries’ complex and sometimes surprising history of labor exchange." &#8212Business Week

"Castañeda removes the shrillness from the immigration debate. His calming argument merits an audience, especially among the fence-builders in Congress." &#8212Kirkus Reviews

Pamela Constable
A sharp-eyed student of American politics, Castaneda offers a trenchant if jargon-filled analysis of the recent congressional debacle over immigration reform. He echoes Fox's urgent call for bilateral action, but he warns more coolly that nothing, neither walls nor deportations, will stop poor Mexicans from crossing the Rio Grande until the region's severe economic imbalance begins to change.
—The Washington Post
Kirkus Reviews
A reasoned and reasonable view of Mexican immigration by former Mexican foreign minister Casta-eda (Politics and Latin American Studies/NYU; Perpetuating Power, 2000, etc.). In Mexico, writes the author, the current minimum wage is about $300 per month and the average wage about $500 per month. Approximately one-quarter of the Mexicans who arrive, legally or not, in the United States make more than $2,500 per month and send $400 home to Mexico, improving lives on both sides of the line. Given these considerations and the boost to the domestic economy-to say nothing of the absence of workers who might otherwise be unemployed-can one expect the Mexican government to make serious efforts to curtail the northward flight? Not likely, and the flight will doubtless only accelerate until Mexico creates enough jobs and enough wealth to satisfy the needs of its people-again, not likely. Mexico can impede the northward flow, Casta-eda notes, and has done so in the past. In the summer of 2001, for instance, President Vicente Fox sent armed military patrols into the desert to deter migrants, and the number of people attempting to cross dropped immediately. Yet this requires a political will, notes the author, that has not been seen since, and even if the traffic cannot be stopped completely, Mexico "certainly possesses the capacity to try." Fortified border or no, Casta-eda foresees an increase in Mexican arrivals-20 million in 2015, up from about 12 million today-until "they start to taper off through assimilation, creeping legalization, demographics, and economic growth in the south." Against nativist and isolationist alarmism, Casta-eda suggests that such a thing is not so bad. The notion that theillegals bring crime is gainsaid by the statistics, and there are, after all, jobs that need to be done and American employers eager to fill them. Casta-eda removes the shrillness from the immigration debate. His calming argument merits an audience, especially among the fence-builders in Congress.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595584557
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 8/1/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Jorge G. Castañeda is a Mexican politician and academic who served as Mexico’s secretary of foreign affairs from 2000 to 2003. He worked as a professor at several universities, including the National Autonomous University of Mexico; the University of California, Berkeley; Princeton University; New York University; and the University of Cambridge. He has authored more than a dozen books, including Ex Mex: From Migrants to Immigrants, The Mexican Shock: Its Meaning for the United States, and Perpetuating Power: How Mexican Presidents Were Chosen, all published by The New Press. Castañeda regularly contributes to newspapers such as Reforma (Mexico), El País (Spain), the Los Angeles Times, and Newsweek.
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