Undocumented immigrants leaving California for Mexico's improving economy

The Sacramento BeeJuly 28, 2011 

There are fewer undocumented immigrants in California – and the Sacramento region – because many are now finding the American dream south of the border.

"It's now easier to buy homes on credit, find a job and access higher education in Mexico," Sacramento's Mexican consul general, Carlos González Gutiérrez, said Wednesday. "We have become a middle-class country."

Mexico's unemployment rate is now 4.9 percent, compared with 9.4 percent joblessness in the United States.

An estimated 300,000 undocumented immigrants have left California since 2008, though the remaining 2.6 million still make up 7 percent of the population and 9 percent of the labor force, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

Among metropolitan areas with more than 1 million residents, Sacramento County ranks among the lowest, with an unauthorized population of 4.6 percent of its 1.4 million residents in 2008, according to Laura Hill, a demographer with the PPIC.

The Sacramento region, suffering from 12.3 percent unemployment and the construction bust, may have triggered a large exodus of undocumented immigrants, González Gutiérrez said.

The best-paid jobs for undocumented migrants are in the building industry, "and because of the severe crisis in the construction business here, their first response has been to move into the service industry," González Gutiérrez said. "But that has its limits. Then, they move to other areas in the U.S. to find better jobs – or back to Mexico."

Hill said it's hard to know whether the benefit of having fewer undocumented migrants outweighs the cost to employers and taxpayers.

California may have to provide less free education to the children of undocumented immigrants and less emergency medical care, she said, but it will also get less tax revenue.

In 2008, at least 836,100 undocumented immigrants filed U.S. tax returns in California using tax identification numbers known as I-10s, said Hill, who conducted the tax survey.

To read the complete article, visit www.sacbee.com.

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