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Illegal Immigrants Returning To Mexico For American Jobs

MEXICO CITY—As dozens of major American corporations continue to move their manufacturing operations to Mexico, waves of job-seeking Mexican immigrants to the United States have begun making the deadly journey back across the border in search of better-paying Mexican-based American jobs.

"I came to this country seeking the job I sought when I first left this country," said Anuncio Reyes, 22, an undocumented worker who recrossed the U.S. border into Mexico last month, three years after leaving Mexico for the United States to work as an agricultural day laborer. "I spent everything I had to get back here. Yes, it was dangerous, and I miss my home. But as much as I love America, I have to go where the best American jobs are."

A group of Mexican workers make the dangerous trek home across the Rio Grande for their lunch break.

Reyes now works as a spot-welder on the assembly line of a Maytag large-appliance plant and earns $22 a day, most of which he sends back to his family in the U.S., who in turn send a portion of that back to the original family they left in Mexico. Like many former Mexican-Americans forced by circumstance to become American-Mexicans, Reyes dreams of one day bringing his relatives to Mexico so that they, too, may secure American employment in Mexico.

Despite the considerable risk illegal immigrants face in returning across the border, many find the lure of large U.S. factory salaries hard to resist—at 15 percent of the pay of corresponding jobs in America, these positions pay three times what Mexican jobs do.

Still, the danger is very real. When 31-year-old illegal Arizona resident Ignacio Jimenez sought employment at an American plant in Mexico, he was shot at by Mexican border guards as he attempted to illegally enter the country of his citizenship, pursued by U.S. immigration officials who thought he might be entering the country illegally, and fired upon again by a second group of U.S. Border Patrol agents charged with keeping valuable table-busing and food-delivery personnel inside American borders.

"It was a nightmare," Jimenez said. "Many became disoriented and panicked, and some were mixed in with immigrants going the other way across the Rio Grande and ended up swimming to the wrong country."

He added: "My cousin almost drowned. They fished him out and sent him back to wash dishes at T.G.I. Friday's."

Many say the trip across the border as illegal Mexican-American emigrants offers them a chance to land the American jobs in Mexico they never have been able to get as illegal Mexican-American immigrants in the U.S.

"It has always been my goal to have a good American job," Johnson Controls technician Camilla Torres, 27, said. "Many Mexicans now see Mexico as the land of opportunity. Mexicans will not stop trying to get here, no matter how much the Mexicans wish we would not."

Indeed, the trend of illegal re-emigration is causing great resentment among the local Mexican population, and tension between Mexicans and illegally re-entered Mexicans—dubbed repatriados—continues to build.

"I hate these Mexicans, always coming back here to Mexico from America and taking American jobs from the Mexicans who stayed in Mexico," said 55-year-old former Goodyear factory manager Juan-Miguel Diaz, who lost his job to a better-trained repatriado last March. "Why don't they go back to where they went to?"

Still, Jimenez, Reyes, and hundreds of others say they have no choice.

"The American Dream is alive and well in Mexico," Reyes said. "If I work hard, save my money, and plan well, I will be able to send my children to a good school—and who knows? If they study hard, perhaps they will get jobs someday at the new plant General Motors is building in China."

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