Mexico should take a more active stance on US immigration reform
The Mexican government cannot afford the luxury of ignoring what is happening on immigration reform in the big and powerful North. And yet, it has taken a passive attitude. There are good historical reasons for this, but not a good one today.
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The current government wants neither to bet its success on decisions made in another country, nor to exert undue influence on the political process of a sovereign nation. In between these two positions, it is attempting to find a way to be a partner in the solution of a problem rather than the cause of one.Skip to next paragraph
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Mexico’s government needs to make the case that migrants move North because there is demand for their labor there. Since there is no welfare or unemployment support for this cohort, people go when there are opportunities. There have been no work opportunities in the last few years and, therefore, potential migrants have stayed home. If Mexico’s economy continues to improve, there will come a time when no Mexicans will move North. By the same token, as long as there is demand for low-skilled workers, they will continue flowing from Mexico or other nations. For the immigration reform to be successful, this reality needs to be incorporated into the new law.
As the Mexican economy attempts to create the foundations for a strong economic-growth era, the interest of the Mexican government is for Mexicans already in the US to secure a decent life. If that is secured as part of the US immigration-reform process, Mexico should be willing to commit to a broad migratory arrangement whereby it would control the flows of future potential migrants from or through Mexico’s territory, whether they be Mexicans or other nationalities.
Mexico's government has never attempted to manage or hinder the flows of Mexican migrants to the US, considering that it is the constitutional right of any citizen to move about unimpeded. Committing to a change in this policy would entail a radical departure from Mexico's history as well as establish a transcendent legal precedent. The government would also be committing to stem flows not only from countries that are of concern to the US – Middle Eastern and the like, which it has controlled at least since 2001 (several Mexican immigration jails are full of migrants from all continents) – but also from Central American nations that do not constitute a security threat for the United States.
If Mexico commits to stemming immigration flows to the US, it could become a major source of stability for the immigration policy that the US decides to adopt. In fact, it could help the US establish a more rational and realistic mechanism to regulate migratory flows, just as other nations, such as Canada and Australia, do.
Luis Rubio is chairman of CIDAC, Center of Research for Development, a think tank in Mexico City and a writer of more than 40 books on Mexican politics and economics. He writes a weekly column for Mexico’s Reforma newspaper.