In 2005, the Mexican government published a "Guide for the Mexican Migrant" -- in comic book form. The pictographic manual instructed its own citizens how best to cross illegally into, and stay within, the United States. Did Mexico assume that its departing citizens were both largely illiterate and without worry about violating the laws of a foreign country?
Yet Mexico counts on these expatriate poor to send back well over $20 billion in annual remittances -- currently the third-largest source of Mexican foreign exchange.
Multibillion-dollar annual remittances from America fill a void that the Mexican government has created by not extending the sort of housing, education or welfare help to its own citizens that America provides to foreign residents.
In truth, many thousands of Mexicans flee northward not necessarily because there are no jobs, or because they are starving at home. America offers them far more upward mobility and social justice than does their own homeland. And for all the immigration rhetoric about race and class, millions of Mexicans vote with their feet to enjoy the far greater cultural tolerance found in the U.S.
Indigenous people make up a large part of the most recent wave of Mexican arrivals. Those who leave provinces like Oaxaca or Chiapas apparently find the English-speaking, multiracial U.S. a fairer place than the hierarchical and often racially stratified society of Mexico.
People should be a nation's greatest resource. Fairly or not, Mexico has long been seen to view its own citizens in rather cynical terms as a valuable export commodity, akin to oil or food. When they are young and healthy, Mexican expatriates are expected to scrimp, save and support their poorer relatives back in Mexico. When these Mexican expats are ill and aged, then the U.S should pick up the tab for their care.
The current problem for Mexico is that the U.S. might soon deal with illegal immigration in the way Mexico does. But for now, to the extent that Mexican citizens can potentially make, rather than cost, Mexico money, there is little reason for our southern neighbor to discourage its citizens from leaving the country -- by hook, crook or comic book.