Beyond Borders: Migration, Security, and Cooperation in North America
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Introduction to the Special Issue
Beyond Borders: Migration, Security, and Cooperation inNorth America
Since the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement(NAFTA) and the labor and environmental side agreements in 1994, littleprogress has been made between Canada, Mexico, and the United States indeepening cooperation. While other regions around the world at least speak tothe desire to deepen cooperation in vital areas, North America has remainedsilent. The lack of advancement among political leaders is not due to the lack ofcommon problems facing the three countries. The continent still faces problemsthat, to date, have yet to be remedied in a multilateral fashion. This special issueof Politics & Policy addresses two vital and, some would argue, interrelatedpolicy areas, namely migration and security. The articles by scholars from allthree North American countries explore the fundamental questions regardingcooperation in these areas, and each recommends potential policy solutionsbased on their research.
Proponents of NAFTA argued that by bringing wealth and jobs to Mexico,NAFTA would stem the flow of undocumented workers to the United States.Labor mobility was therefore largely left out of the NAFTA agreement.1
However, the economic benefits for Mexico have not been completely realizedand Mexicans continue to travel to the United States in large numbers inincreasingly dangerous conditions despite U.S. attempts to police its borders.Sizeable numbers of Mexicans are also traveling to Canada, many of thembrought under the Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program.
Instead of addressing this pressing social problem, since the terrorist attacksof September 11, 2001, the political agenda of the North American regionhas been dominated by security issues. Like NAFTA, the meetings composingthe Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America do not containa discussion for the easement of labor mobility for migrants to the richercountries of the region. Instead, the focus is on increased surveillance to detectillicit activity, such as smuggling of contraband, and those associated with
1Except for chapter 6, which created visa provisions for some categories of business people andhigh-skilled workers.
Politics & Policy, Volume 39, No. 1 (2011): 5-9. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. The Policy Studies Organization. All rights reserved.
international terrorism. The noticeable avoidance to discuss immigration,however, may still have a good deal to do with security. Some have concludedthat a states immigration and security policies are linked since policies thatdetermine who can enter a country will affect the countrys social, economic,and political stability, with the later three forming the foundation of statesecurity (Rudolph 2003). Therefore, one conclusion that can be made is thatstricter immigration policies, in both the United States and Canada regardingMexican nationals, are also part of the increased emphasis on security.Migration is thus a critical and politicized issue, one that threatens to damageintergovernmental relationships and which may jeopardize the future of NorthAmerican regional cooperation.
Of course, tying migration, security, and development together with NorthAmerican cooperation begs a simple yet relevant question: Why is there a needfor the three countries to cooperate? North American cooperation is anexpression of contemporary global trends that compel countries to join effortsin a strategic search for a better position in the world economy. Thedevelopment of the European Union and the economic advances of China andIndia require a coherent policy for North America, especially for the UnitedStates, if it wishes to continue to play a leading role in world affairs. In apartnership with Canada and Mexico, the United States can better positionitself competitively. If the policies of the cooperative efforts (i.e., the inclusion ofmigration and security) reflect advantages for all three countries, then theUnited States will not be alone in reaping rewards. As a result, the destinies ofCanada, Mexico, and the United States are tied. It is in the best interest of allparties involved to find a balance between their respective interests instead ofyielding to the priorities of the strongest partner. Unfortunately, immigrationpolicy is often viewed and discussed as zero-sum competition among bothhigh-skilled and low-skilled workers in the United States (Hainmueller andHiscox 2010) and/or negatively impacting welfare policies (Hero and Preuhs2007; see also Nannestad 2007).
Each of the articles in this special issue of Politics & Policy focuses onaspects of the migration/security nexus in an effort to see where cooperation isfound, where it is in short supply, and where it is lacking. The first set of articlesanalyzes our research foci at the subnational and individual levels. Gabriel andMacdonald look at the role that nonstate actors in four Canadian cities have inpromoting and upholding migrant workers access to social rights. They arguethat access to Canadian welfare benefits are circumscribed by the SAWP, butobtaining them is difficult given the structural conditions of their employment.As a result, these conditions provide workers disincentives to access social rightsand instead lead to their exploitation. In contrast, Bayes and Gonzalez analyzethe Consejo Consultivo del Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior (AdvisoryBoard of the Institute of Mexicans Abroad), a Mexican government-fundedinitiative to develop leadership within migrant communities in the UnitedStates. The authors focus on how transnational citizens negotiate their dual
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identities, loyalties, and creativity in addressing health, education, and businessservice problems related to migrants, and find that these efforts have tended toexpand horizons and networks, helping to unite and construct the communities.Nielan Barnes examines how civil society organizations serve immigrants andact as drivers for health policy innovation and convergence in various locationsin all three countries: Ontario, Canada; Central Mexico; and southernCalifornia, USA. Her work assesses the health policy gap that exists betweenimmigrant and nonimmigrant populations and the role that these organizationsplay in filling that gap.
The study by Aguayo-Tllez and Rivera-Mendoza looks at one of thefundamental drivers of migration, the wage gap experienced by Mexicanworkers seeking employment in the United States. Their findings show thatmale workers with no schooling earn in the United States about seven timesmore than their Mexican counterparts. The wage gap descends with schoolingto about three for men with 20 years of schooling. The results are very similarfor women, with the wage gap descending from six to three for schooling levelsranging again from zero to 20 years.
The next set of articles examines bilateral and trilateral relations. First,Nolan Garca examines the United StatesMexico cooperation in the area oflabor. She argues that cooperation has diminished over time since the signing ofthe NAFTA labor side agreement. By examining the roles civil society and laborunions have had in this diminishment, she provides implications on the effect itwill have on migration policy. Next, the work of Gaspare Genna examineswhere North America sits in the overall picture of regional integrationworldwide. He examines two variables that explain the level of regionalintegration, homogeneity of domestic institutions, and economic asymmetry.He finds that regional integration and homogeneity of domestic institutionsmutually promote each other. Thus, while low levels of institutionalhomogeneity serve to explain the current low level of North Americancooperation, including institutional compatibility in the international agendacan promote a virtuous cycle toward integration.
Together, the set of articles gives us an idea of the current level of NorthAmerican cooperation, particularly between Mexico and its more developedpartners. This level is less than optimal. Institutional and economic differenceswith Mexico appear hard to bridge. But an important aspect of policy becomesapparent. Current integration efforts, based on NAFTA, have emphasizedeconomic policy. NAFTA was born in a period of market policies; these effortshave not been strongly supported by complementary public policies. Puttogether, the various articles show that such complementary public policies arenot only necessary but could yield promising results.
To begin with, Aguayo-Tllez and Rivera-Mendozas article corroboratesthat wage differences betweenMexico and the United States continue to be veryhigh, pointing to lower-than-expected results from NAFTA that cannot, as yet,lead to a reduction in migration. Thus, even in the economic sphere, policies
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oriented exclusively to markets have not yielded the desired fruits. As NolanGarca points out, complementary policies to NAFTA, such as cooperation inthe area of labor, have not turned out to be sufficiently well structured;cooperation in this area has diminished over time. Gabriel and Macdonaldshow that even promoting and upholding migrant workers rights requiresadditional state and nonstate action. Bayes and Gonzalez show that suchgovernment-promoted action can be successful, as in the case of the ConsejoConsultivo del Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior. Nielan Barnes showshow civil society organizations can serve as drivers for health policy innovation.Finally, Gaspare Gennas article serves to show that there is a broad scope forpublic policy in promoting the homogenization of institutions across NorthAmerica that will yield benefits in integration.
Finally, we would like to no