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Return Migration and the Challenges of Reintegration in Mexico

Return Migration Cover
Return Migration Cover

Executive Summary

Between 2005 and 2018, more than 3 million undocumented Mexicans living in the United States returned to Mexico.1 With deportation efforts extending to the interior over this period, many of these returnees are adult members of a so-called 1.5 generation, individuals who left Mexico as young children and spent their formative years in the United States before being newly uprooted and returned to the country of their birth. Whether repatriated as a result of removal proceedings or voluntarily deciding to relocate, they arrive equipped with abundant human and social capital, a by-product of their US education, employment, social networks and cultural experiences. Upon arrival, however, they encounter a formidable set of logistical, economic, socio-cultural and psychological challenges that constrain their ability to harness their assets, develop new skills and integrate into Mexican society. 

The US and Mexican governments have a shared stake in facilitating the incorporation of these returning migrants. Denied the opportunity to build fulfilling and productive lives in Mexico, they are unable to provide for themselves or for their partners and children still living in the US. They become easy prey for organized crime and are tempted to re-migrate. But given half a chance, they are determined to make their mark, enriching the economic and social fabric of contemporary Mexico. 

This report synthesizes core findings of a survey and accompanying interviews we conducted with 413 returning Mexican migrants between June 2018 and June 2019 as members of the oral history project, Migration Encounters. Divided into five parts, the report begins with a brief overview of evolving trends in migration between Mexico and the US. The second section provides a socio-demographic profile of survey respondents and interviewees. In the following two sections, we discuss the social and human capital that members of the 1.5 generation of returning migrants bring to Mexico and the obstacles they face upon arrival. Inviting the Mexican and US governments to recognize the perils of ignoring the challenges these returnees face and the promise of harnessing their skills and talents, the report concludes by outlining a set of policy recommendations aimed at facilitating their incorporation. 

Mexico Institute

The Mexico Institute seeks to improve understanding, communication, and cooperation between Mexico and the United States by promoting original research, encouraging public discussion, and proposing policy options for enhancing the bilateral relationship. A binational Advisory Board, chaired by Luis Téllez and Earl Anthony Wayne, oversees the work of the Mexico Institute.   Read more