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UCLA researchers, including Dr. Arturo Vargas Bustamante, Fielding School of Public Health professor of health policy and management, found that 74 percent of voluntary returnees to Mexico from the United States and 67.5 percent of deportees had health insurance, compared with 88.4 percent of the reference population, after adjustment for socioeconomic and demographic differences
An estimated 10.9 million Mexican-born immigrants lived in the U.S. in 2019, accounting for 24 percent of all US immigrants. Between 2010 and 2019 the number of Mexican immigrants in the U.S. decreased by almost 780,000, or 7 percent. Starting in 2008, a combination of large-scale deportations and the Great Recession’s economic consequences accelerated the flow of return migrants to Mexico. Even after the recovery from the Great Recession, Mexican migration continued to decrease as a result of increased immigration enforcement and voluntary repatriations. Since 2009 net migration to the US from Mexico has remained close to zero, meaning that more Mexican immigrants have left the US than have emigrated from Mexico to the U.S., and this trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future, as Mexico’s fertility rate is rapidly declining.
Approximately 61 percent of the Mexican migrants who have returned from the U.S. since 2009 have done so voluntarily, citing family reunification as the primary motivation to return. In contrast, 14 percent of Mexico’s return migration since 2009 was due to deportation. Previous research shows that return migrants, either those who returned voluntarily (returnees) or those forcibly removed (deportees), face unique challenges on return. Return migrants frequently face problems finding a job, enrolling their children in school, and gaining access to health and social services when they resettle in Mexico. Returnees, especially deportees, also face stigmatization and discrimination because they are assumed to have criminal records in the U.S. or to have mental illness, or they can experience discrimination based on personal features, such as skin tone or Spanish fluency, making it challenging for them to get health coverage.
As migrants navigate their return, access to health care becomes one of their most pressing needs, particularly for migrants with chronic and mental conditions. Research investigating barriers to access to health care faced by repatriated Mexican migrants is scarce. Previous research has examined differences in access to health care between return migrants and residents of Mexican border cities, but to our knowledge, no study has investigated the differences in health insurance coverage between voluntary returnees and deportees. Return migrants are likely to have different experiences after repatriation associated with their varying degrees of preparedness and motivations to return. Voluntary returnees could make a conscious decision to move and prepare with anticipation, planning how to resettle and invest the skills and capital they obtained abroad. In contrast, deportees could be less likely to succeed after return, as the deportation process is usually sudden and inhibits one’s ability to prepare and mobilize resources for repatriation. Deportees also are often forced to leave their families behind when they are transported to Mexico, motivating them to return to the U.S. Differences in intentions between voluntary returnees and deportees may alter decisions on how to invest in reintegration.