The work ethics of undocumented Mexican immigrants

They are honest and hard-working people who have the same ethics and dedication to work that the Pilgrims had more than four centuries ago

Who likes to be separated from their family, from their friends, from the land where they were born, and go to a world where they don’t even speak their language? Where everything is strange. Food. Customs.

But that is the reality of millions of migrants who embark on the sometimes deadly adventure of reaching the country of the American Dream. But let’s be clear, for most of them, the dream that they imagined so much never comes, instead they fall into something more like a nightmare.

They accuse them of coming to collect benefits that, in reality, they cannot collect because they are not permanent residents or citizens. Thus, do not qualify. They are in the worst jobs. They cannot complain about abuses at the risk of being fired or reported to immigration authorities. They have no political rights. They are ignored, belittled. But despite everything, they stay.

And why do they stay despite everything? Because with their job, or sometimes two jobs, many can send a few pesos, or rather dollars, which, with the exchange conversion, are oxygen to wives, children, and grandchildren, who have been left with the economic challenges from the native land.


Undocumented immigrants come from every imaginable country in the world. According to the American Community Survey, in 2019, the last year before the pandemic, the majority came from Mexico, El Salvador, India, Guatemala and Honduras.

But Mexicans are at the top of the list. There are more than 4 million in the U.S., which represents 41% of all the undocumented.

And although some opportunistic and intolerant politicians, like Donald Trump, accuse them of being criminals and rapists; and others of being lazy; studies and statistics suggest otherwise. They are honest, hard-working people, who, transcending time, have the same work ethics as the Pilgrims, from more than four centuries ago, who threw themselves into the danger and uncertainty of crossing an ocean, escaping from the persecution of intolerant people, and in search of an America of opportunities that could not be found in the old Europe.

According to an analysis, around 97% of the undocumented workers who arrived from Mexico are working and contributing to the US economy. They represent 12% of the labor force in the agricultural sector, 7% in the construction sector, and 3% in the tourism and hospitality sector.

The income of households with undocumented Mexicans amounts to no less than $92,000 million dollars. In addition, in 2022 they paid almost $10 billion in taxes. And according to estimates, they contributed $11.7 billion to Social Security and almost $3 billion to Medicare.

And not to mention their contribution as consumers of goods and services.

These numbers are clear. Undocumented Mexicans contribute significantly to the US economy. But ironically, they don’t qualify for federal benefits. No social security. No Medicare. Not even unemployment insurance.


But their contribution does not end there, because many of them send money to their relatives in Mexico. Transfers that for many wives, children, parents, grandparents, means living or not living in poverty.

Although there is no precise data on the undocumented, it is worth mentioning that according to the Center for Latin American Monetary Studies, remittances to Mexico from Mexicans residing in the United States reached more than $55 billion dollars in 2022.

An analysis by BBVA bank suggests that more than $18 billion came from California, and more than $8 billion from Texas. As you can imagine, the states where most of the remittances were sent, were those that produced the most emigrants: Jalisco, Michoacan and Guanajuato. In general, it is estimated that around 10 million families, residing in Mexico, benefit from these remittances.

So, ultimately, undocumented Mexican immigrants residing in the United States not only help activate the US economy, but together with their documented counterparts send remittances to Mexico that are a source of national income that has become crucial for the Mexican economy. A contribution that not only deserves to be recognized, but applauded. Applauded, because behind all these numbers there are men and women who left behind what they loved most, simply to improve the quality of life of their loved ones and who, despite myths and legends, despite never having managed to reach the promised paradise in the American Dream, continue day after day in those jobs that nobody wants.

This article was supported in whole or in part by funds provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library and the Latino Media Collaborative.


  • Martín Ocampo

    Escritor y periodista de Paysandú, Uruguay, quien actualmente reside en Nueva York, EE.UU., en donde ha trabajado en diversos medios. Su corazón es charrúa y su pluma es latina.

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