Why the Obsession With Counting Mexicans?

Dear Mexican: I work for a major news organization and often have heard the figure of 10 million illegal Mexicans. Unofficially, I have been quoted the number 20 to 25 million illegals, most of them not Mexican. Why the focus on the Mexicans? They are far less alien than the Asians or Africans, not to mention the Guatemalans. Explain?

—Muy Smart Man

Dear MSM: Trying to figure out how many illegal immigrants are in this country is like trying to determine who invented the margarita, or what happened to Carlos Mencia. The long-accepted figure was 12 million undocumented folks in this country, until the Great Recession hit and dropped the number to somewhere between 10 and 11 million. It's generally accepted that Mexicans make up between half and two-thirds of the figure. Further complicating the matter is that differing numbers get spat out by organizations with political agendas. My suggestion? Don't even care about how many mojados are in this country — just accept the Reconquista.

It seems like all the discussion about Mexican immigration centers on "illegal," low-wage workers. But as part of NAFTA, many well-educated Mexicans have the right to work in the United States without restriction via the TN-1 visa. Any sense of how big it is? Has it had an effect in Mexico, either in a brain drain or just in encouraging more people to go into the sciences?

—IT Gabacho

Dear Gabacho: The number of Mexicans who have entered this country under a TN visa have increased dramatically, from 168 in 1997 to 3,376 in 2010, according to the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs. Mexico has a proud tech industry and such opportunities will only increase as Mexico becomes more wired. You don't hear about this type of migration because smart Mexicans don't exist in the American mind. And I wish the TN visa was the main reason for the Mexican brain drain, but a narco war will do that to a country.

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