Alfredo Corchado Economic Club

Alfredo Corchado speaks to the Economic Club of Traverse City.

TRAVERSE CITY — The face of immigration is changing along the southern U.S. border, journalist Alfredo Corchado told members of the Economic Club of Traverse City.

Corchado is the Mexico City bureau chief for the Dallas Morning News. He’s also the author of two books. “Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter’s Journey,” published in 2013, deals with Mexico’s drug wars. “Homelands: Four Friends, Two Countries, and the Fate of the Great Mexican-American Migration” was published in 2018.

He spoke in Traverse City about historical and recent trends in the flow of immigrants, both legal and illegal, between the two nations.

Political and other forces are affecting the local agricultural industry: Farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to attract seasonal workers. Other parts of the U.S. are experiencing worker shortages just as severe. There are fewer Mexican workers in the U.S. than in the recent past.

“In the last 10 years, Mexican migration has fallen off by about a million,” Corchado said.

“It’s such an unwelcoming environment for many of them,” he said. “Last year, there were more Mexicans who went back to Mexico than Mexicans who came to the United States. And there were more Americans — whether they were children of Mexican immigrants or Americans themselves who were looking to live or retire in Mexico — who went down to Mexico than came back. That’s the reality today.”

During President Obama’s term in office, he said, more than a million Mexicans who were in the U.S. illegally were deported.

“It was sort of the beginning of the end of the great Mexican migration,” said Corchado, who works out of both El Paso, Texas, and Mexico City.

Corchado was born in Mexico, but immigrated legally to the U.S. with his parents when he was six years old. His mother owned a restaurant in El Paso. After establishing himself as a journalist in Utah and Texas, he moved to Philadelphia in 1987 to work for the Wall Street Journal. He has reported on border issues for much of his career.

He spoke of a recent visit Mexico City.

“I’m walking around the monument to the revolution in Mexico City, and I can’t hear anyone speaking Spanish,” he told club members. “All these Mexicans speaking English. They were all people who had been deported (from the U.S.) and now were trying to find work in Mexico.”

Corchado’s reporting suggests Mexican workers are losing enthusiasm for job opportunities in the U.S. He visited another city in Mexico and realized that, as illegal border crossings have become more expensive and dangerous, interest in U.S. jobs has been waning.

“I could not find one Mexican, in the two days I stayed there, who would tell me he or she wanted to work in the United States.”

Many Mexicans now are trying to make the American Dream a reality without leaving Mexico, he said: Either staying in their hometowns or taking jobs elsewhere in Mexico. The birth rate in Mexico has been falling, he said, as the number of available jobs in Mexico has been rising. The result is more job opportunity.

One of his cousins who lives in Mexico described the nation as a beautiful rosebud that, for many, didn’t blossom into economic opportunity. Immigration to the U.S., either legal or illegal, for decades offered a chance for that opportunity. Now, however, opportunity does seem to be blossoming in Mexico, and — for Mexican citizens — fading north of the border.

“I began to feel that flower is wilting in the United States,” said Corchado.