Migration Policy Institute
Promoting Success on Both Sides of the Border: Binational Approaches to U.S. Immigrant Integration
Ambassador Carlos García de Alba, Executive Director, Institute for Mexicans Abroad
Laureen Laglagaron, Policy Analyst, MPI
Kathleen Newland, Director of the Migrants, Migration, and Development Program, MPI
Aaron Terrazas, Policy Analyst, MPI
Michael Fix, Senior Vice President and Director of Studies, MPI
Immigrant integration remains largely an afterthought in U.S. immigration policy discussions and the country's integration policies remain chronically ad hoc, underfunded, and skeletal. Yet the degree to which immigrants and their families are able to successfully integrate and achieve upward socioeconomic mobility in the United States is the ultimate test of whether immigration succeeds -- both for individual migrants as well as the country as a whole. In the absence of coherent immigrant integration policies at the federal level, the responsibility historically has fallen to families, employers, churches, non-governmental organizations, and an increasingly restive set of state and local governments. But new partners are emerging that share many of the same objectives. Increasingly, countries of origin and destination have shared interests in ensuring that immigrants and their children succeed in building their human capital and achieving socioeconomic mobility. Among developing countries, Mexico has been a leader in advocating and actively promoting the successful integration of its diaspora. With the creation of the Institute for Mexicans Abroad (Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior or IME) in 2003, the Mexican government has expanded the focus of its diplomatic offices in the United States, moving beyond traditional responsibilities such as consular protection and legal defense to promote the education, health care, financial literacy, and vocational training of Mexicans in the United States. MPI's report, titled Protection through Integration: The Mexican Government's Efforts to Aid Migrants in the United States, shows how Mexico's approach to its migrants has evolved based on the belief that a better-integrated immigrant benefits both the sending and receiving countries. As the report outlines, IME's programs remain relatively small in terms of the number of participants and beneficiaries. But IME's programs also represent a pioneering approach to immigrant integration by an immigrant-sending country and possibly figure among the most substantive coordinated policy initiatives to promote the integration of Mexican immigrants in the United States. Panelists discuss the report; IME's involvement in the integration of immigrants, including IME's involvement in education and the binational teacher program; and how immigrant integration and development goals are complementary.