Eine Frau geht an einer Weltkarte, die aus Kinderporträts besteht, am Freitag (18.06.2010) im JuniorMuseum in Köln vorbei.

1.8.2008 | Von:
David Fitzgerald

Background information

Mexico is a country of immigration, transmigration – mostly from Central America to the United States – and emigration, mostly to the United States. For the past century, emigration has far outweighed the other forms of international migration.

MexicoMexico Lizenz: cc by-nc-nd/2.0/de (bpb)

Historical Development


Like countries throughout the Western Hemisphere, Mexico attempted to attract immigrants from Europe during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Few immigrants came, however, due to high levels of political instability in Mexico and more attractive alternatives for transatlantic migrants, such as the United States, Argentina, and Canada. Only half a percent of late-nineteenth-century transatlantic European immigrants settled in Mexico. With the failure to draw Europeans, Mexico tried to attract Chinese immigrants in the late nineteenth century. Yet, when the United States closed the door to most non-European immigrants in the 1920s Mexico quickly followed suit, restricting the entry of Asians, Middle Easterners, and Eastern Europeans as part of a racist backlash against the post-revolutionary imagining of Mexico as a mestizo nation forged of Spaniards and the indigenous population. The foreign-born share of the Mexican population rose from 0.4 percent in 1900 to 1 percent in 1930, but since then has gradually declined, reaching 0.5 percent in 2000.


Background Information


Capital: Mexico City
Official language: Spanish
Area: 1.972.550 km2
Population (2007): 108.7 million (CIA Factbook)
Population density (2005): 54.5 inhabitants per km2
Population growth (2006): 0.89% (OECD)
Labour force participation rate (2007): 42% (CIA Factbook)
Foreign population as a percentage of total (2000): 0.5% (INEGI)
Unemployment rate (2007): 3.7% (CIA Factbook)
Religions (2000): Roman Catholic 76.5%, Protestant 6.3%, Unspecified 13.8%, Other/ None 3.4% (INEGI)

Nineteenth Century Conquest
Migration between Mexico and the United States is "the largest sustained flow of migrant workers in the contemporary world". [1] Mexico shares a 3200-kilometer border with the United States. The difficulty of policing such a long border, and the exposure that it implies between the two countries, are two reasons why Mexican migration has been so intense. Yet few immigrants were born in the border region; most are from states hundreds of kilometers south. Indeed, 2300 kilometers of highway separate the city of Tijuana on the northwest border with California from Guadalajara in the heart of Mexico's migrant-sending region in the Central West. Military and economic interventions by the United States, direct U.S. recruitment, and turmoil in Mexico have played a fundamental historical role in generating migration from Mexico to the United States.

The 1836 secession of Texas and 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, ending a two-year war between the United States and Mexico, stripped Mexico of more than half of its territory. About 80,000 Mexicans lived in the northern territory at the time. In the felicitous phrase of contemporary immigrant activists, they didn't cross the border; the border crossed them. Most Mexicans in the United States trace their ancestry to twentieth century migration, however. Demographers estimate that had there not been any migration from Mexico in the twentieth century, the Mexican-origin population of the United States would only be 14 percent of its current size. [2]


Massey et al. (1998): 73.
Bean and Stevens (2003): 53.


Zuwanderung, Flucht und Asyl: Aktuelle Themen

Ein Kurzdossier legt komplexe Zusammenhänge aus den Bereichen Zuwanderung, Flucht und Asyl sowie Integration auf einfache und klare Art und Weise dar. Es bietet einen fundierten Einstieg in eine bestimmte Thematik, in dem es den Hintergrund näher beleuchtet und verschiedene Standpunkte wissenschaftlich und kritisch abwägt. Darüber hinaus enthält es Hinweise auf weiterführende Literatur und Internet-Verweise. Dies eröffnet die Möglichkeit, sich eingehender mit der Thematik zu befassen. Unsere Kurzdossiers erscheinen bis zu 6-mal jährlich.

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