National Press Club, Washington, DC
Thinking Regionally to Compete Globally: A New View on Migration and Human Capital for the United States, Mexico, and Central America
Carlos Gutierrez, Former U.S. Secretary of Commerce
Eduardo Stein, Former Vice President and Foreign Minister of Guatemala
James R. Jones, Former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico and former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Oklahoma
Luis Rubio, Chairman of the Center of Research for Development (CIDAC)
Demetrios G. Papademetriou, MPI President
Doris Meissner, MPI Senior Fellow and Director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Program
Andrew Selee, Vice President for Programs, Wilson Center
Ernesto Zedillo, Former Mexican President and Secretary of Education
Few issues over the last 35 years have shaped and defined the U.S. relationship with Mexico and, increasingly, much of Central America more than migration. Thus, getting migration and the issues that fuel and surround it right is vital to the region’s long-term stability, prosperity, and competitiveness in a fast-changing and unforgiving global economy that increasingly is organizing around regional relationships. This spring, as U.S. immigration legislation takes shape on Capitol Hill, the migration policies and decisions that are rapidly emerging undoubtedly will have a lasting, long-term effect on regional relationships. Until now, however, there have been no systematic conversations about what a collaborative, regional approach to competitiveness, human-capital development, and migration might look like.
The Migration Policy Institute and the Latin American Program/Mexico Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Center have filled that void by convening a Regional Migration Study Group—co-chaired by former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, and former Guatemalan Vice President Eduardo Stein—and drawing upon the membership of other key former officials, civil-society leaders and policy experts in the United States, Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala.
The Study Group’s primary goal, culminating in the final report released on May 6, was to develop and promote a longer-term vision of how to build a stronger social and economic foundation for the United States, Mexico, and Central America’s Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) by enhancing the region’s human-capital infrastructure. Building up the region’s human capital—through education and workforce development reforms that gradually develop common standards in key sectors across the region—should create better economic opportunities for the region’s citizens, creating an engine for growth in each country and strengthening regional competitiveness. Over time, success in this regard will mitigate today’s concerns about the scope and “quality” of regional migration while setting the stage for future regional migration to be more of a genuine choice, rather than a necessity.
On May 6—just days after President Obama sat down with Mexican and Central American leaders to discuss economic growth, citizen security, and migration—the Study Group issued a final report outlining its findings and offering recommendations to policymakers and civil society in the region.