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Originally published Wednesday, August 17, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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4 of 10 Mexicans would move to U.S., poll finds

Four out of every 10 Mexican adults surveyed would migrate to the United States if they had the means and opportunity to do so, according...

The Dallas Morning News

WASHINGTON — Four out of every 10 Mexican adults surveyed would migrate to the United States if they had the means and opportunity to do so, according to a poll released yesterday.

And two in 10 Mexican adults surveyed say they would be willing to live and work illegally in the United States, the Pew Hispanic Center reported in what is believed to be the first snapshot by U.S. pollsters of Mexicans' views on migration.

With about one in every eight Mexican adults already living in the United States — and 40 percent of the nation's nearly 70 million adults willing to migrate if the opportunity presented itself — the findings could hold implications for U.S. policy-makers.

Congress and the Bush administration are considering various proposals for a temporary-worker program that would allow foreign workers to come here and let many of the more than 11 million illegal immigrants remain here for a number of years before returning home. Of the 10 million Mexicans living in the United States, about half are believed to be here illegally.

While President Bush has said he wants to begin the debate this fall, the prospects for enacting a guest-worker plan — which has proven controversial among lawmakers who fear it would reward lawbreakers and spur new illegal immigration — remain unclear.

Two-thirds of the 2,400 adults surveyed in Mexico for the Pew Hispanic Center said their friends and relatives would be interested in participating in a temporary-worker program. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The survey dispels the belief that Mexicans with the least opportunity at home are most likely to head north in search of better lives. One-third of college-educated Mexicans and half of those with a high-school education also voiced a desire to migrate.

Though Mexico's educational system has improved, its economy has yet to generate enough jobs sought by people with more education, said Roberto Suro, executive director of the Pew Hispanic Center.

"People with a high-school or even a college degree in Mexico believe that they have greater economic opportunity migrating to the U.S. — even illegally — than they would staying at home," he said.

Mexican government officials were examining the study, a Mexican Embassy spokesman said, and had no immediate comment.

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