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Thursday, January 21, 2010

For many Mexicans, migration is a two-way street.(NEWS).

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SAN JOSE BUENAVISTA, Mexico -- The plan was simple: Go to the USA. Get a job washing dishes. Make enough money to start a business back home.

Five years after he arrived in New York, Manuel Faustino had accomplished it all. So earlier this month he collected his last paycheck, packed his bags and went back home to Mexico.

In the debate over illegal immigration, much attention has been focused on Mexicans and other foreigners who want to stay in the USA indefinitely, even become U.S. citizens. Often forgotten are the people like Faustino who come to work for a short time, then return home because of family ties or other reasons.

There are no reliable data on how common such cases are, but Mexico is full of taxi drivers, waiters or salesmen who can rattle off the names of tiny towns in Michigan or Oregon where they picked vegetables or worked in construction for a few years.

"Americans don't understand -- many of us don't want to live in the United States," said Faustino, 35, as he attended a welcoming party in his honor in the tiny hamlet of San Jose Buenavista. "What we really want is to make some money, then go home to our families."

Faustino and his cousin crossed the border illegally in 2002. Living in a three-bedroom apartment with 18 other migrants, they eventually became restaurant cooks and managed to save $35,000 apiece.

The two men recruited other investors, then combined the money with a grant from Mexico's Puebla state to build a complex of tomato greenhouses in San Jose Buenavista, 120 miles northeast of Mexico City. The first crop will be ready next month, and the Faustinos already have a buyer lined up in New York.

Such short-term migration used to be more common until the 1990s, when Mexico's economy crashed, sending a new wave of job-seeking migrants north. U.S. efforts to fortify the border also have discouraged Mexicans and other immigrants from trying to cross back and forth as often.

The flow of migrants back into Mexico "is a tendency that is in decline, but there are still many people who continue to come and go," said Juan Artola, chief of the Mexico mission for the International Organization for Migration.

There are an estimated 6 million Mexican illegal immigrants living in the USA, according to an estimate last year by the Pew Hispanic Center. In a 2004-05 survey conducted by the group, 27% of Mexican migrants said they wanted to stay in the USA five years or fewer.

A 2005 Mexican government survey of Mexicans returning home for the winter holidays showed 79% of them had crossed into the United States during the previous three years.

Many ex-migrants say they returned because they missed their families.

Plumber Antonio Salazar crossed the Arizona desert in 2004, leaving behind a wife and three children in Chimalhuacan, near Mexico City. He worked as a construction worker for a year in New York before returning to Mexico.

"I couldn't take being away from my wife and children," he said.

Now 29, Salazar spends his days waiting for plumbing jobs in a corner of Mexico City's Zocalo plaza. He earns about $120 a week, a third of what he used to earn in New York.

"You earn more there, but it's not worth it," he said.

Politicians in Mexico have been trying to encourage people to stay in the country through financial incentives to create jobs in their hometowns.

The state of Puebla has funded 40 business ventures founded by migrants in their hometowns, including the company Faustino set up in San Jose Buenavista. The state contributed half of the $170,000 cost to build the greenhouses.

The goal of such programs is to break the cycle of migration, keeping families together and exploiting the talents of people who might otherwise go to the USA, said Carlos Olamendi, Puebla state's high commissioner for migrant affairs.

"We want migration to be an option, rather than a necessity, for these towns," Olamendi said.

As Manuel Faustino and his cousin, Jose Luis Faustino, sipped beers at the welcome home party, they discussed their ultimate dream: expanding the tomato-growing enterprise so it could employ every member of their family, keeping them all in Puebla state.

Under a nearby tent, the mariachis sang "Que chula es Puebla, que linda!" (How pretty Puebla is, how beautiful!)

"I'm never going back to New York, never," Manuel Faustino said.

Hawley is the Latin America correspondent for The Arizona Republic and USA

TODAY.

CAPTION(S):

PHOTOS, B/W, Chris Hawley, USA TODAY(2)

Source Citation
Hawley, Chris. "For many Mexicans, migration is a two-way street." USA Today 26 July 2007: 9A. General OneFile. Web. 21 Jan. 2010. .


Gale Document Number:CJ166841014

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