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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

A new poll looks at the attitudes of Latinos in the US and Mexicans in their own country. It shows surprising views toward immigration on both sides of the border. For example, most foreign-born Hispanics say illegal immigrants should be able to get driver's licenses, but a majority of Hispanics born in the US say they should not. Both groups feel that immigration levels should stay about the same. But as NPR's Linda Wertheimer reports, the poll taken in Mexico shows many more Mexicans want to come to the US.

LINDA WERTHEIMER reporting:

An estimated 70 million adults in Mexico would come to the United States if they had the means and opportunity. A poll conducted for the Pew Hispanic Center puts that number at around 46 percent of Mexico's adult population. About half of those people said they'd be willing to come and work illegally. Roberto Suro is the director of the Pew Hispanic Center. He says the poll provides a sense of the dimensions of immigration policy challenges for the US, and the dimensions, he says, are not small. Neither stronger enforcement at the border nor proposed guest-worker programs really deal with these numbers.

Mr. ROBERTO SURO (Director, Pew Hispanic Center): A hundred, 200,000 slots a year isn't going to do it, given the inclination to migrate and the fact that you have very deep and well-functioning channels now between Mexico and the United States that carry people here. A smallish worker program would only absorb some of the demand, and it would take a lot more enforcement than there is now to make sure that the rest of the demand wasn't met through illegal migration.

WERTHEIMER: Economist Luis Rubio heads the Center of Research for Development in Mexico City. He says the US economy pulls needed workers to this country, and Mexico, which has failed to develop opportunities for its own people, pushes them out.

Mr. LUIS RUBIO (Center of Research for Development): There is very little understanding in Mexico that the solution has to come from Mexico and that the US might be willing to be a complement to that but not the main solution. It can't be the main solution. It's not as if 70 million Mexicans are going to simply move up to the States. So the problem here in Mexico is that ultimately the US has become an escape route for Mexico's problems.

WERTHEIMER: Roberto Suro of the Pew Hispanic Center says these days immigrants are not the poorest of the poor. Many of them already have jobs; many of them have some education.

Mr. SURO: It's all about expectations. The relationship between Mexico and the United States now is such that going to the United States is perceived as one of the available avenues for what people do when they grow up--I mean, where they go. It's a life path that is a standard option for a lot of people. It's not so much a matter of despair as thinking that, `You'll do better.'

WERTHEIMER: That's precisely what Mexican colleague students told NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro. Marcos Bosneros(ph) is 22, a student at the Technological Institute in Mexico City.

Mr. MARCOS BOSNEROS (Student, Technological Institute): Well, I'm studying finance. So here in Mexico there are no many places to work. You study about four or five years, and then you don't have anything to do or no opportunities to work.

WERTHEIMER: The Pew Hispanic Center study finds that 35 percent of college graduates want to come to the United States, even if they have to work at a job below their qualifications. Emiliano Rodriguez(ph) is a law student at the Technological Institute.

Ms. EMILIANO RODRIGUEZ (Student, Technological Institute): In the US, you can be--I mean, I'm going to go right to the extreme, but you could be a waiter, you could do OK. I mean, you know, you're going to have it for the rent, you're going to have it for the car. And here it's not the same thing. You know, you don't have the same chances.

WERTHEIMER: Many college-educated people who want to come to the United States said they would come illegally. Lionel Marquez(ph) is studying Hispanic literature at the University of Mexico.

Mr. LIONEL MARQUEZ (Student, University of Mexico): (Through Translator) It's an option, one of many possibilities. That's because of the example always set by thousands and thousands of Mexicans who have already done it. And it's also due to the proximity. From here, I can take a truck to Tijuana and be in the US in about two weeks.

WERTHEIMER: Lionel Marquez is right about those big numbers. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that one in eight people born in Mexico lives and works in the United States. Linda Wertheimer, NPR News, Washington.

NORRIS: You'll find details of the study conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center at our Web site, npr.org.

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