March 14, 2005

Survey of Mexican Migrants, Part Two

IV. Migration Experience

As noted above, the sample for this survey drew heavily from among young and recently arrived migrants. As such, the survey sample is not representative of the full range of migratory experiences by Mexicans in the United States. The sample encompasses a reduced share of older migrants and migrants of longer tenure who may have lived in the United State periodically in the past, making numerous trips back and forth across the border. Because the sample was drawn only from Mexicans who were applying for a matrícula consular, there are also smaller shares of legal permanent residents and U.S. citizens—individuals who can freely cross the border in both directions—than in the Mexican-born population in the United States as a whole.

Within these boundaries, the survey offers important insights into recent migration patterns, and the results indicate that a sizeable number of young, recently arrived respondents have come to the United States repeatedly. The youngest age category of respondents—those 18 to 29 years old—were almost equally divided between those who said they were on their first trip to the United States (49%) and those who said they had been here before. Among those who had been in the United States five years or less, 57 percent said they were on their first trip. Among those who had been here two years or less the share was 64 percent. This indicates that even among the young and most recent arrivals, substantial shares of respondents had made multiple trips to the United States. Half of the respondents age 29 or younger and a third of those in the country for less than two years had already visited the United States at least once before.

The share of respondents saying they were on their first trip to the United States varied by state of origin in a pattern that mirrored the relative age of the migratory flow from those states. Larger shares of respondents from states with recent migratory flows such as Puebla said they were on their first trip compared with states with long-established migratory flows such as Jalisco.

The survey did not explicitly ask respondents to reveal their immigration status, but it did ask whether respondents had any form of photo ID issued by any government agency in the United States. A little more than half (53%) said they did not. This sub-sample was evenly divided between those who said they were on their first trip to the United States and those who were not (51% vs. 47%). Thus, about half of the respondents who said they had no form of U.S.-issued identity documents said they had traveled to the United States at least once before their current visit.