Thursday, October 18, 2012

Migration Management in Mexico and Central America

Map Courtesy of Natural Resources Canada

Migration has emerged as a critical policy issue for Mexico and Central America over the course of the last three decades. While most attention has focused on Mexican migration to the United States, Central American transit migration through Mexico has increased in size and visibility since the 1980s, generating policy and governance issues for Mexico. For much of the 1990s, the Mexican government expressed no clear preference to either control or openly tolerate Central American transit migration. Its main law governing immigration was the 1974 General Population Law, which focused on family unification and was framed as a response to the challenges of the era, notably large-scale emigration from Mexico. But with calls from Mexican civil society and others to improve policy coherence and implementation, as well as improve protections for migrants who are vulnerable to abuse as they transit through Mexico en route to the United States, Mexico in 2011 adopted a sweeping new migration law. Regulations for the Ley de Migración were published just weeks ago and are due to take effect in early November.

In New Approaches to Migration Management in Mexico and Central America, senior researchers Francisco Alba and Manuel Ángel Castillo of El Colegio de México trace the history of migration trends and policy in Mexico and Central America, and examine Mexico’s new immigration law and implementation challenges. The 2011 law strives to respect the human rights of migrants, facilitate the international movement of people, meet the country’s labor needs, ensure equality between Mexican natives and immigrants to Mexico, recognize the acquired rights of long-term immigrants, promote family unity and sociocultural integration, and facilitate the return and reintegration of Mexican emigrants.

While passage of the law already has reduced bilateral tensions with Central American governments and has granted Mexico new moral authority when advocating on behalf of migrant rights in the United States, the authors note that the law’s ultimate success will turn on policy implementation. They also make the case that while the Ley de Migración may work as an expression of foreign policy, the law appears poorly equipped to address Mexico’s long-term migration challenges and competitiveness.

This report is the latest research from the Regional Migration Study Group, a partnership between MPI and the Latin American Program/Mexico Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Study Group, co-chaired by former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, former US Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, and former Guatemalan Vice President Eduardo Stein, is a high-level initiative that in 2013 will propose new collaborative approaches to migration, competitiveness, and human-capital development for the United States, Central America, and Mexico.


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