TREND: The immigrant population in Mexico continues to grow, according to the recently released data for the 2020 Census. From 2015 to 2020, Mexico’s immigrant population increased from 1 million to 1.2 million, accounting for almost 1 percent of the total population. Preliminary figures show the following trends:
•Even though U.S.-born immigrants are still the largest immigrant group in the country, their share among the immigrant population decreased over the last five years. As of 2020, 797,000 U.S.-born immigrants lived in Mexico, representing 66 percent of the total immigrant population, down from the 73 percent share in 2015. In contrast, the share of immigrants from Venezuela increased from 1.6 percent in 2015 to 4 percent in 2020, and the share of Honduran immigrants grew from 1.5 to 3 percent.
•Following the United States, the top countries of origin of immigrants in Mexico as of 2020 were Guatemala (57,000), Venezuela (53,000), Colombia (36,000), Honduras (35,000) and Cuba (26,000). A relatively small but notable number of immigrants in Mexico come from Europe (61,000), Asia (31,000), Africa (3,000), and Oceania (1,000).
•Family reunification was the primary reason for migrating to Mexico in the past five years reported by the largest immigrant communities (54 percent of the U.S.-born immigrants, 26 percent of Venezuelans and 27 percent of Colombians). On the other hand, violence and insecurity was the main reason for migrating mentioned by Hondurans (37 percent), while 46 percent of Guatemalans and 30 percent of Cubans mentioned that looking for employment opportunities was their main motivation.
•The largest immigrant populations have settled in states along the U.S.-Mexico border or in main urban areas in central Mexico. Baja California (152,000), Mexico City (105,000), Chihuahua (101,000), Jalisco (92,000), and Tamaulipas (68,000) are immigrants’ top destinations. These states, combined, host 43 percent of all immigrants in Mexico.
•Notably, children born in the United States account for 44 percent of the total immigrant population in Mexico. Children have steadily accounted for at least half of the recent immigrants from the United States since 2010, suggesting many may have left the United States with their Mexican parents as result of voluntarily or involuntary return.
•Of the total immigrant population, 54 percent has access to some type of health care insurance, in contrast to the at-large population in Mexico, of which 73 percent are insured. Of those migrants who have health insurance, at least two-thirds are insured through a public health institution, such as the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS).
TAKEAWAY: The new 2020 Census figures provide a comprehensive although not exhaustive, characterization of the immigrant population in Mexico. The data proves that Mexico is increasingly becoming a destination country—while continuing to be a transit and country of origin for migrants. These insights can help policymakers design the tailored provision of government services to address the needs of mixed flows, including transnational families comprised of Mexican returnees and their U.S.-born children. Particularly, there is a pressing responsibility of increasing protection and steering away from reactionary one-size-fits-all measures applied in recent years. As these migrant groups continue to (re)settle in Mexico, the legal framework should account for their heterogeneity and foster their successful integration into Mexican society.
* Spotlight by Ariel Ruiz Soto, Policy Analyst; Ana Paulina Ornelas Cruz, Research Consultant; and Andrea Tanco, Associate Policy Analyst at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute (MPI). MPI seeks to improve immigration and integration policies through authoritative research and analysis, opportunities for learning and dialogue, and the development of new ideas to address complex policy questions. Twitter: @migrationpolicy