The truth about Mexican migrants

On the Move: Changing Mechanisms of Mexico-US Migration
Filiz Garip
2017, Princeton University Press
294 pages, hardback

TO SAY that Filiz Garip’s study of Mexican migration to the US is timely would be something of an understatement, given the prominence accorded this theme in the agenda of the new president, Donald Trump. The latter’s plans to round up and deport 11 million undocumented migrants and build a wall the length of the 2,000-mile border with Mexico, combined with his racist slurs of Mexicans, are by now notorious. Against this backdrop, a number of academic studies in the last year have sought to draw attention to the half-truths and myths on which Trump has based much of his rhetoric, with data itself suggesting that Mexican immigration to the US has been in reverse since 2007 and that there has been a dramatic decline in the undocumented population in the country since 2008. Garip’s On the Move can be considered alongside this literature, and offers a wealth of hard data and empirical analysis to paint a picture of the diverse mechanisms and motivations that underpin the flow of people moving north. The author uses survey data from more than 145,000 Mexicans and in-depth interviews with nearly 140 people to reveal a much more complex and subtle picture in which different waves of migration can be discerned, the most recent being in the late 1990s and early 2000s by a generation of more educated, urban migrants who give the lie to the Trump stereotypes. In short, the largest immigrant group in the US is much more diverse than we have imagined, and hence it can be concluded that its contribution to the host country is also highly diverse. Garip’s work is, as commentators have suggested, the definitive book on Mexican migration to the US in the last half century and should become a work of reference for every scholar in this field. – EC