International migration is a phenomenon that largely stems from structural factors that take a long time to change and are beyond the reach of short-term policies. Among the main factors we can include the great economic transformations (eg change from rural to industrial economy) and long-term demographic changes. Specialists also point out that the massive flow from one country to another is not accidental and generally occurs when a series of “bridges” have already been established between them, such as commercial exchange, colonization, etc.
Migration has grown in importance in the post-World War II era. According to the United Nations Organization, today there are more than 214 million people living in a country other than the one in which they were born. The geographical origin of the flows has varied over time. In the 19th century and during the first half of the 20th they originated mainly in European countries.
who were undergoing a process of economic modernization. Since the mid-twentieth century, most international migrants have come from countries in the southern hemisphere, which are also impacted by the development of market economies and are gradually incorporated into the globalization process, and go mainly to countries in the northern hemisphere, where there is demand for foreign labor.
The United States has become the country with the largest number of international migrants (37.9 million in 2008), who come mainly from Latin America and Asia. This pattern began in 1965, with the beginning of a new Immigration Law that again allowed Asian migration and kept the door open for Mexicans, and which coincided with a drop in immigration from Europe.
The change has occurred as the population of European origin has been aging and, on the other hand, the demand for foreign labor has expanded due to a trend of rapid economic growth in the post-war era.
The arrival of large numbers of non-European migrants has generated various controversies, including the return of arguments about the supposed inability of new immigrants to assimilate into American culture or to adopt principles and values (democracy, market economy, etc.) considered essential by conservative sectors.
These arguments have been refuted by high-quality studies, but they persist and are reproduced by extremist sectors that have managed to redefine the national political debate and have taken control of the political discourse of the Republican Party. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 added unexpected complexity and have subordinated the issue of migration to that of national security. More recently, the economic crisis that the country is suffering has created a more adverse scenario, with greater hostility towards a possible migratory reform that would allow the legalization of some 11 million undocumented immigrants (half of them Mexicans) and a possible increase in the number of immigrant visas. work to encourage documented migration. Despite the continuing demand for foreign labor, and its undeniable growth in the future due to the exit from the labor market of the “baby boomers”, there has not been in recent decades a political will to reconcile the country’s migratory policies with demographic trends and the demands of the labor market. The country’s migration policies are characterized by irrationality and unilateralism, since there has been no interest in finding regional or bilateral solutions.