An Immigration and National Security Grand Bargain with Mexico
March 18, 2002
In a policy paper released on March 18, 2002, Demetrios G. Papademetriou, Co-Director of the Migration Policy Institute, called for a "Grand Bargain" between the United States and Mexico to address the areas of immigration and national security. The bargain would be composed of four completely interwoven initiatives that would realistically address the most vexing problems in the bilateral relationship, and deliver to both sides the outcomes they most urgently desire. The programs are outlined below:
The policy paper urges the U.S. and Mexican presidents, when they meet in Monterrey, Mexico on March 22, 2002, to announce they are restarting bilateral negotiations, and to direct their negotiators to create a detailed plan of action, within six months, which addresses all four priorities.
- Earned regularization program: This is Mexico's number one priority in the current negotiations. Under this program, unauthorized immigrants currently in the United States could earn legal, and later permanent resident, status through a points-based system that assigns credits for attributes like having no criminal record, employment stability, paying taxes, having family equities, etc. The U.S. would benefit from this program in two ways. First, in terms of national security, the U.S. would be able to identify and learn the whereabouts of the 8.5 to 9 million persons who live within its borders without permission and bring them under a fair system of accountability. Second, this program would be the "carrot" to obtain cooperation from Mexico on a host of border security issues that are vital for law and order and national security. This program would give initial priority to Mexicans, but eventually expand to include other nationalities.
- Registration program: The identification of as many of those in the U.S. without permission as possible (a "census of the undocumented") is a necessary precondition for several U.S. goals, including enhancement of national security and the creation of a proposed entry/exit system for tracking non-permanent immigrants. It is also a fair pre-condition to being able to earn legal status.
- Temporary worker program: This is the U.S. business community's number one priority in the current negotiations. A robust version of this program, which would apply only to new workers, would help bring order to migration across the southern border by substituting legal workers for illegal ones and allowing U.S. businesses to continue to fill important jobs with willing workers from Mexico; allow Mexico to continue to use the U.S. labor market as a release valve for workers and an important source of remittances; and offer regulated, legal, and more reliable employment opportunities to new workers from Mexico. If properly designed, the program can be a "win-win-win" deal for all three parties.
- New border security arrangements: This is the U.S. Government's number one priority in the current negotiations. In light of terrorism concerns, the protracted problems of trafficking and smuggling along the southern border, and the fact that Mexico is the second largest trading partner of the U.S. (with $261.7 billion in two-way trade in 2000), the United States has an urgent need to obtain Mexico's cooperation on improved border security. A border security agreement with Mexico would complement the "smart borders" accord signed with Canada in Dec. 2001.
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