November 21, 2003

Learning from the Matrículas: Mexican Immigrants in San Diego County

Emmanuelle Le Texier
Center for U.S- Mexican Studies at UCSD

The matrículas consulares have gained a broad recognition by administrations, banks, police and others actors in the U.S. Although they have been highly criticized under the concern that the Mexican government will use this tool to obtain a major regularization program for undocumented migrants, they are now widely considered as an upgraded, safe and legitimate identity card. The next step is to understand that the ma-trículas also provide a tool for academics to understand more on the diversity and characteristics of a fragment of the Mexican immigrant population in the U.S. What can we learn from the matrículas? What are the specific findings for San Diego County? David Runsten (North American Integration and Development Center at UCLA) presented some interesting insights during the seminar untitled Ties That Bind: Mexican Immigrants in San Diego, held at the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at UCSD on November 14.

On the one hand, the Mexican consulate granted 63.260 matrículas from 1995 to 2002 in San Diego County. Although the access to the information gathered during the process of matricula registration is limited by confidentiality requirements, some findings can be highlighted. Even if we don’t know about when people entered the U.S., we can elaborate on where they come from or where they used to live before migrating. In the case of San Diego County, the six main states of origins of matrículas holders are Oaxaca (11,69%), Guerrero (10,61%), Jalisco (10,08%), Michoacan (9,43%), Baja California (8,26%) and Mexico D.F (7,37%). It confirms the broad variety of Mexican immigration in the county.

On the other hand, a comparison between migrants’ state of origin and settlement places in San Diego county show three different and localized patterns. The first pattern links migrants from Oaxaca and Guerrero (the most recent out migrating states in Mexico) to North County. The second pattern draws ties between matrículas holders from Jalisco and Michoacan to the city of San Diego but also mostly spread all over South and East County. The last trend binds migrants from Baja California to Chula Vista, National City, and San Ysidro, showing the strong connection between Tijuana and South San Diego County.

Down the level of the state of origin, the findings demonstrate a very local migration process. Matrículas holders from Oaxaca, Guerrero or Mexico D.F. do not come from every part of these states. On the contrary, they out migrated from specific localities. For instance, Mexican migrants from Oaxaca mainly come from the Valle de Zimatlan and part of the Mixteca region, whereas the one migrating from Mexico D.F are mostly leaving from Venustiano Carranza, Iztapa-lapa and Aztapotzalco areas.

Besides, these findings can also allow some comparisons with socioeconomic characteristics that show that this fragment of San Diego County Mexican migrants is probably one of the poorest and lower-income communities in the area. Specifically, matrículas’ data on settlement places fits dramatically with 2000 U.S. census data. The matrículas holders leave predominantly in heavily Latinos populated areas, that have the lowest income per household and are also the most overcrowded areas in the county (highest rate of more than 2 people per room). This demonstrates a strong link between undocumented status and socioeconomic exclusion.

Finally, these data show that the matrículas are a fundamental tool to understand better the Mexican migrants communities, especially in San Diego County. They contribute to academic research that can portray invisible and secluded communities in need. Advocates of the matricula should enhance even more the fact that matrículas not only express a form of sovereign protection given to Mexican citizens but also constitutes an essential scientific tool.

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