Reforming the Management of Migration Flows from Latin America to the United States (Working Paper #170)


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Wayne Cornelius, Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, UC San Diego

Introduction: For the past 15 years, the United States has had a strategy of controlling unauthorized immigration from Mexico and other Latin American countries that overwhelmingly emphasized border enforcement, coupled with extremely weak worksite enforcement and no effort to reduce the unauthorized flow by increasing legal-entry opportunities, especially for low-skilled workers. Under the “prevention through deterrence” doctrine adopted by the U.S. Border Patrol in the early 1990s, illegal entries were to be prevented by a concentrated “show of force” on specific segments of the border, which, it was believed, would also discourage crossing attempts from being made in areas less heavily fortified but more remote and dangerous to migrants. Tens of billions of dollars have been invested in the border enforcement build-up since 1993. Spending on border enforcement has more than tripled during this period, in constant dollars, and by the end of FY 2009 the Border Patrol will be more than three times as large as it was in FY 1996 (see Figure 1)

Work Paper #170

The Imagined Return: Hope and Imagination among International Migrants from Rural Mexico (Working Paper #169)

Javier Serrano, Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, UC San Diego

Abstract: Migrants from rural Mexico usually move abroad with the idea to return once they have improved their economic situation. Although they do not always go back, Mexican migrants often plan their return before leaving. In any case, the imagined return persists for a long time in their minds. This paper analyzes the ways in which rural migrants from southern Veracruz and western Mexico imagine a better future, a future only made possible by migration. Therefore, these powerful images of a more prosperous tomorrow inspire migrants to move abroad. As an alternative to different perspectives that treat migration basically or exclusively as a demographic or economic phenomenon, I suggest that massive migration is motivated essentially by hope. And it always involves optimistic ideas about the future. From this perspective migrants are conceived with a more human face. Hope and imagination are rooted in migrants’ hometowns.

Working Paper #169 »

Assessing the Role of Pre-School Program Design in the Successful Integration of Immigrant Children in Greece (Working Paper #168)

Daphne Halkias, Ph.D., Research Associate. Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, UC San Diego

Michael Fakinos, Ph.D., Democritus University of Thrace, Alexandroupolis, GREECE

Nicholas Harkiolakis, Ph.D., Hellenic American University, Athens, GREECE

Peggy Pelonis, MS, MFC, The American Community Schools, Athens, GREECE

Vicky Katsioloudes, MSW, Independent Researcher, Athens, GREECE

Abstract: Success in integrating the children of immigrants – the second generation – is of enormous consequence for economically advanced societies that have received millions of international migrants since the 1980s. Education systems play a crucial role in this process. Availability and access of culturally diverse and appropriate preschool education are important factors for supporting long-term integration of immigrant children in host societies. In most industrialized countries, preschool programs are aimed at low-income and minority groups, offering education to hone the cognitive, language, literacy, and numeric skills of preschoolers, thus giving them a strong start upon entering elementary school. While, the evaluation of such programs indicate that entry into such programs is an avenue to improve the integration of immigrant children, research indicates that the design of these programs is imperative to their success. Finally, although well-designed early education programs aim to reduce ethnic group-related inequalities in children’s cognitive skills and social competence, children in immigrant families are less likely to participate in these programs than are children in native-born families. This paper will investigate the above key points by outlining the development of a research project to assess the adequacy of preschool program design in Greece to support the successful integration of immigrant children. The investigators will develop the project to evaluate the program design of thirty preschool programs in two cities of Greece, Athens and Alexandroupolis to indicate: 1) program design to meet the developmental needs of preschool children with the aim of successful entry into elementary school, and 2) access and availability of the education and health services provided by the well-designed preschool programs to immigrant children and their parents. In conclusion, the authors will make recommendations for public policies to promote well-designed early education as a key social support factor in the successful integration of immigrant children in the host society.

Working Paper #168»

Mexican Policy and Mexico – U.S. Migration (Working Paper #167)

Agustín Escobar Latapí, CIESAS Occidente, Mexico.

Introduction: Mexico – U.S. migration has gradually become one of the largest such flows in the world today. It is characterized by its extremely long history and persistence regardless of numerous policy changes in the United States, especially IRCA, new border enforcement strategies and acts of Congress, such as the immigration, welfare and anti-terrorism bills of 1996, massive growth in the U.S. Border Patrol staff and budget, or the Real ID act of 2005. This study emphasizes that, while U.S. policy could develop a much better approach to regulate this flow, reforms are likely to fail unless Mexico plays a role in two respects: Firstly, to contribute to the regular character of the flow, which would impact Mexican migrants in a very positive sense.  Secondly, to enhance the internal developmental impact of emigration. I agree with Phil Martin (this volume)  in the sense that development, not the export of labor, is and should be, to a much greater extent than today,  Mexico’s overriding goal and policy objective. To quote a well-known Mexican economist, Mexico urgently needs a development policy to guide, and make sense of, economic, social and decentralization efforts. This chapter concentrates on Mexican policies relating to migration: their current nature, quality, and impacts, and their potential within a broad, articulated Mexican stance towards emigration.

Mexico has developed a number of policies that could contribute significantly to the regulation of emigration. These policies and programs must be considerably strengthened and expanded, and some components must be added or perfected. These policies and programs, however, will not be of much consequence without three additional elements. The first is a Mexican vision of the role migration can play in Mexican development. This vision should serve to articulate the various components of this comprehensive policy, and the subsequent implementation of specific incentives for specific kinds of migration, together with appropriate dis-incentives for those deemed undesirable. The second is an economic policy leading to sustained economic and employment growth. The third is U.S. collaboration. The current two-sided U.S. policy, which favors some barriers to illegal entry and places increasing restrictions on social services and means of identification but, at the same time, fosters the employment of undocumented immigrants, will thwart any Mexican efforts to collaborate in the promotion of legal migration. Legal avenues for migration must be made available to migrants who know employers wish to hire them, and their cost/benefit assessments must unequivocally favor legal migration. At the same time, employers must be able to take advantage of these new and enhanced avenues for the employment of immigrants, and they must conclude hat the employment of unauthorized workers is not worthwhile.

There are three main areas in which we believe Mexican policy should be developed to achieve the twin goals of regulation and enhanced development. The first is development. The second has to do with social policies that should reduce poverty and inequality in Mexico, and improve access to basic lifetime assets. The third, finally, consists of the development of migration management policies and programs, including those relating to the Mexican diaspora.

Note: Taken from Agustin Escobar and Susan Martin (coord.), Mexico – U.S. Migration Management: A Binational Approach, to be published in 2008 by Rowman-Littlefield under the Lexington Books imprint.

Working Paper #167 »

Mexico – U.S. migration has gradually become one of the largest such flows in the world today. It is
characterized by its extremely long history and persistence regardless of numerous policy changes in the
United States, especially IRCA, new border enforcement strategies and acts of Congress, such as the
immigration, welfare and anti-terrorism bills of 1996, massive growth in the U.S. Border Patrol staff and
budget, or the Real ID act of 2005. This study emphasizes that, while U.S. policy could develop a much better
approach to regulate this flow, reforms are likely to fail unless Mexico plays a role in two respects: Firstly, to
contribute to the regular character of the flow, which would impact Mexican migrants in a very positive sense.
Secondly, to enhance the internal developmental impact of emigration. I agree with Phil Martin (this volume)
in the sense that development, not the export of labor, is and should be, to a much greater extent than today,
Mexico’s overriding goal and policy objective. To quote a well-known Mexican economist, Mexico urgently needs a development policy to guide, and make sense of, economic, social and decentralization efforts.2 This
chapter concentrates on Mexican policies relating to migration: their current nature, quality, and impacts, and
their potential within a broad, articulated Mexican stance towards emigration.
Mexico has developed a number of policies that could contribute significantly to the regulation of
migration. These policies and programs must be considerably strengthened and expanded, and some
components must be added or perfected. These policies and programs, however, will not be of much
consequence without three additional elements. The first is a Mexican vision of the role migration can play in
Mexican development. This vision should serve to articulate the various components of this comprehensive
policy, and the subsequent implementation of specific incentives for specific kinds of migration, together with
appropriate dis-incentives for those deemed undesirable. The second is an economic policy leading to
sustained economic and employment growth. The third is U.S. collaboration. The current two-sided U.S.
policy, which favors some barriers to illegal entry and places increasing restrictions on social services and
means of identification but, at the same time, fosters the employment of undocumented immigrants, will
thwart any Mexican efforts to collaborate in the promotion of legal migration. Legal avenues for migration
must be made available to migrants who know employers wish to hire them, and their cost/benefit
assessments must unequivocally favor legal migration. At the same time, employers must be able to take
advantage of these new and enhanced avenues for the employment of immigrants, and they must conclude
that the employment of unauthorized workers is not worthwhile.
There are three main areas in which we believe Mexican policy should be developed to achieve the twin
goals of regulation and enhanced development. The first is development. The second has to do with social
policies that should reduce poverty and inequality in Mexico, and improve access to basic lifetime assets. The
third, finally, consists of the development of migration management policies and programs, including those
relating to the Mexican diaspora.

The Importance of Brain Return in the Brain Drain- Brain Gain Debate (Working Paper #166)

Karin Mayr, Johannes Kepler University (Linz, Austria)

Giovanni Peri, University of California, Davis and National Bureau of Economic Research

Abstract: Recent theoretical and empirical studies have emphasized the fact that the perspective of international migration increases the expected returns to skills in poor countries, linking the possibility of migrating (brain drain) with incentives to higher education (brain gain). If emigration is uncertain and some of the higly educated remain such channel may, at least in in part, counterbalance the negative effects of brain drain. Moreover recent empirical evidence seems to show that temporary migration is widespread among highly skilled migrants (such as Eastern Europeans in Western Europe and Asians in the US). This paper develops a simple tractable overlapping generations model that provides a rationale for return migration and predicts who will migrate and who returns among agents with heterogeneous abilities. We use parameter values from the literature and the data on return migration to calibrate our model and simulate and quantify the effects of increased openness on human capital and wages of the sending countries. We find that, for plausible values of the parameters, the return migration channel is very important and combined with the incentive channel reverses the brain drain into significant brain gain for the sending country.

Working Paper #166 »

Immigration Policing Through the Backdoor: City Ordinances, The “Right to the City,” and the Exclusion of Undocumented Day Laborers (Working Paper #165)

Monica W. Varsanyi, School of Justice and Social Inquiry, Arizona State University

Abstract: Whereas the federal government has exclusive authority over immigration in the United States, during the past decade (and particularly since 9/11), many cities have formulated “grassroots” policies that enable local immigration policing “through the backdoor,” and have the indirect—but intended—effect of excluding undocumented immigrants from their jurisdictions. Providing a national overview and three case studies from the Phoenix, Arizona, metropolitan region, this article focuses specifically on the way in which cities are deploying public space ordinances to police (presumed) undocumented day laborers within their jurisdictions. This
study underscores how noncitizen status can compromise claims to “the city,” and thus makes an argument that the legal geographic literature on city ordinances, public space, and the “right to the city” must engage with immigrant legal status and break free from the “territorial trap” of the nation-state, in which citizenship status is either assumed or considered a non-issue.

Working Paper 165 »

Institutionalized Networks: The Role of Transportation Workers in West African Mobility (Working Paper #164)

Tim Mechlinski, University of California, Santa Barbara

Abstract: This paper concerns the social process of mobility control in four West African countries: Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, and Ghana. Mobility has long been an important aspect of West African social, cultural, and political life, although now mobile people cross the borders of what are relatively newly-defined nation-states. Most migration research in this region considers international boundaries as merely theoretical and unimportant to the lives of migrants, and empirical research on borders focuses on the ethnic groups living in border zones. This study explores everyday enforcement of international and internal mobility control, and the ways in which mobile Africans respond to and resist the actions of security agents. I do this using ethnographic evidence gathered when traveling over 10,000 miles in Burkina Faso, Mali, Ghana, and Côte d’Ivoire over a period of nine months.

Data were gathered through participant observation at 23 international borders in West Africa, and 175 security control checkpoints in total. This evidence is supplemented by twenty-nine interviews with transportation workers across the four countries studied. Based on the notion that border interactions entail important socio-economic, cultural, and political processes affecting individuals differently based on their social positions, this paper explores the roles and responsibilities of transportation workers in assisting Africans to negotiate border crossings. Augmenting the traditional social science literature on migrant networks with an approach proposed by development economists, this paper shows that transportation workers play an essential, institutionalized role in mobility control in West Africa. It demonstrates the strength of weak ties and the need for a re-conceptualization of migrant networks that is more attuned to the realities of an African context.

Working Paper #164 »

The interrelationship between fertility, family maintenance, and Mexico-U.S. migration (Working Paper #163)

David P. Lindstrom, Brown University
Silvia Giorguli-Saucedo, El Colegio de México

Abstract: This study examines the interrelationship between migration and marital fertility, using a bi-national sample of retrospective life histories collected in Mexican origin communities and U.S. destination areas. We treat couples as the unit of analysis and use discrete-time hazard models to examine: (1) how the timing and parity of births influence the occurrence of migration (to the U.S. or return to Mexico) and the type of migration (solo or couple), and (2) how current migration status and cumulative migration experience influence the likelihood of a birth. Examining the effects of fertility on migration, and the effects of migration on the timing of births, we are able to address how couples integrate migration opportunities and fertility goals into family building strategies in a context where international circular migration is pervasive.

Working Paper #163 »

Agenda Setting, Public Opinion, and the Issue of Immigration Reform (Working Paper #162)

Johanna Dunaway, Sam Houston State University
Marisa A. Abrajano, University of California, San Diego
Regina P. Branton, Rice University

Abstract: While the importance of agenda setting has been well-documented (Baumgartner and Jones 1995, Iyengar 1991), it is unclear whether its affect holds for issues that may not be salient to a significant portion of the public. We explore this puzzle by examining the issue of illegal immigration, as it is one policy that traditionally impacts those living in states along the U.S.-Mexico border more so than for those residing in non-border states. Our analyses of newspaper coverage of immigration and Gallup public opinion data over a twelve-month period (January-December 2006) provide considerable support for the agenda-setting theory. The volume of news coverage did increase following the protests and as such, the public perceived immigration as an important problem facing the country. These findings hold for individuals residing in both border and non-border states, suggesting that the power of agenda-setting holds across issues that may not be nationally salient to the entire American public.

Working Paper #162 »

Globalization and its Impact on Migration in Agricultural Communities in Mexico (Working Paper #161)

José Martínez. University of California, San Diego

In this paper, I examine several market liberalization measures taken in Mexico in the first half of the 90’s and their impact on municipalities’ migration incidence. Specifically, I look at events that affected generally small agricultural producers of basic crops, such as the removal of price supports and input subsidies, changes in laws governing the property rights of communal landowners and the reduction in tariffs on agricultural imports brought about by NAFTA, and their impact on migration to the U.S. I find that reliance on basic crop production is positively and significantly associated with municipality level U.S. migration incidence. I also find small effects of exposure to changes in property rights of communal landowners and negative but insignificant effects of exposure to globalization on migration to the U.S.

Download the full text:  Working Paper #161 »