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Estimates suggest that there are 11 million to 13 million Mexican citizens currently living in the United States illegally. Millions more emigrated previously and are now U.S. citizens.

A recent poll revealed that one-third of Mexicans (34 percent) would like to emigrate to the United States. With Mexico having a population of about 130 million, that amounts to some 44 million would-be immigrants.

Such massive potential emigration into the United States makes no sense.

First, Mexico is a naturally rich country. It ranks 19th in the world in proven oil reserves and is currently the 12th-largest oil producer. Mexico certainly has significantly more natural advantages than do far wealthier per capita Singapore, Taiwan or Chile.

Mexico also is one of the world's most popular tourist destinations and earns billions in foreign exchange from visitors. It enjoys a temperate climate and has millions of acres of fertile farmland and a long coastline.

In addition to being strategically located as a bridge between North America and South America, Mexico has ports on both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

It is not overcrowded: Mexico ranks in the lower half of the world in population density. Too many people and too little land are certainly not the reasons why millions of Mexicans either emigrate or wish to emigrate to the United States.

Second, popular progressive narratives in both Mexico and the United States cite America for all sorts of pathologies, past and present. The United States is often damned for prior colonialism and imperialism, as well as current racism and xenophobia.

Why, then, would millions of people south of the border leave their homeland and potentially risk their lives to encounter a strange culture and language, to live in such a purportedly inhospitable place, and to adopt to an antithetical system based on supposedly toxic European and Protestant traditions?

The answers to these paradoxes are as obvious as they are politically incorrect and therefore seldom voiced. Life in Mexico is relatively poor, dangerous and often unfree. In contrast, the United States is rich, generous and secure.

Mexico--unlike, say, Japan or Switzerland, which are far less naturally endowed and yet far wealthier--has never fully adopted Western paradigms of free-market economics, constitutionally protected free speech, due process, gender equity, private property rights, an autonomous press, government transparency, an independent judiciary, and religious diversity and tolerance.

To the degree that Mexico can make strides toward these goals, its population will stabilize and become more affluent--and also become less likely to emigrate.

More importantly, millions of Mexican citizens recognize (at least privately) that the United States is not the bogeyman of mostly elite critiques. Instead, it is one of the world's rare multiracial equal-opportunity societies. It is generous with its entitlements even to those who cross its border illegally, and far more meritocratic than most of the world's highly tribal societies.

Maybe that is why millions of impoverished people from Mexico have left their homes in expectation that they will be treated far better as foreign non-English speakers in a strange land than they will at home by their own government.

Indeed, if the U.S. treated immigrants in the fashion that Mexico does, then Mexican citizens would probably never emigrate to the U.S.

In sum, illegal immigration is both logical and nonsensical.

After all, the Mexican government is quick to fault the U.S., but it is rarely introspective. It does not explain publicly why its own citizens wish to flee the country where they were born--or why they are eager to enter a country that is so often ridiculed by the Mexican press and government.

Mexico apparently does not take care of its own citizens. But once they arrive inside the U.S., Mexico suddenly becomes an advocate for their welfare. No wonder: Mexican expatriates send back an estimated $30 billion a year in remittances.

Real and would-be emigrants themselves also act ironically.

On both sides of the border, they often fault the U.S. and demand that U.S. immigration law be suspended--but only in their case.

Emigrating Mexican citizens wave Mexican flags at the border as they try to enter America, while their counterparts inside the U.S. do the same when they protest being sent back home.

Apparently no one in Mexico or in the U.S. ever wishes to admit that Mexican citizens really like the United States--apparently far more than they do their own homeland.


Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

Editorial on 01/10/2019

Print Headline: Why they come north


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  • Jfish
    January 10, 2019 at 7:55 a.m.

    Good column

  • UoABarefootPhdFICYMCA
    January 10, 2019 at 8:13 a.m.

    Trash column.
    You want to know how much Mexico loves you?
    "STFU Gringo give me my money"

  • eaglescout
    January 10, 2019 at 8:17 a.m.

    And while we argue back and forth, new caravans are assembling...

  • UoABarefootPhdFICYMCA
    January 10, 2019 at 8:18 a.m.

    They come here because of the blatant racism which allows the only racism in existence to be promoted aginast "non hispanics". When your society makes everything about eing "hispanic" on every questionairre its on your tax returns its on your doctors forms its at the library its in the schools WHITE MAN EVIL HEESPANEEEK SPECIAL.
    discrimination and racism. Why do they enjoy discrimination and racism? because there has never been a time i the course of human eventsas a people so stupid retarded hateful as USA wh0res

  • Skeptic1
    January 10, 2019 at 8:37 a.m.

    Illegal aliens have been subsidizing the corruption in Mexico for decades by coming here to work illegally then sending those ill gotten dollars back to Mexico. That is why the Mexican government has in the past been uncooperative in helping to stop the flow. If the message is you will be imprisoned until you are deported instead of "catch and release," the flow will stop. If they find a wall/fence barrier on the border the flow wills stop. The Dems (Nancy and Chuck) are becoming as dangerous to our democracy as any other anti-American enemy.

  • WhododueDiligence
    January 10, 2019 at 8:56 a.m.

    Victor Davis Hanson grossly exaggerates the problem. Organizations which track the number of illegal immigrants report illegal immigrants from Mexico are down significantly in the past decade. For example a November 2018 study by Pew Research Center (using 2016 as its last year of data) found the number of illegal immigrants in the US had dropped from a high of 12.2 million in 2007 to 10.7 million in 2016. The number of illegal immigrants from Mexico had dropped from 6.9 million in 2007 to 5.4 million in 2016. And over that time period illegal immigrants from other countries had dropped from 5.3 million to 5.2 million.
    When Trump was elected in 2016 based in part on his scare tactics and his scheme to build a big beautiful wall that Mexico would pay for, the number of illegal immigrants from Mexico had dropped by 1.5 million since 2016. And now of course we have Victor Davis Hanson, a Trump loyalist, with yet another scary tale of a horde of 44 million would-be immigrants from Mexico that Hanson feels the need to be protected from by his dear leader don. Meanwhile, in the real world, as the numbers go down the opposite is happening.

  • WhododueDiligence
    January 10, 2019 at 9 a.m.

    correction--When Trump was elected in 2016 the number of illegal immigrants from Mexico had dropped by 1.5 million since 2007.

  • SWAL
    January 10, 2019 at 9:13 a.m.

    WHODODUEDILIGENCE - Are you good with 5.4 million illegals from Mexico per year..?

  • WhododueDiligence
    January 10, 2019 at 9:32 a.m.

    Swal, it's not 5.4 million per year. In 2016 it was 5.4 million total in the US, down from a total of 6.9 million in the US in 2007.
    That decreasing total shows how wild Hanson's alarmingly wild tale is about the 44 million.

  • SWAL
    January 10, 2019 at 9:42 a.m.

    Are you good with 5.4 million illegals total..?