E.g., 04/13/2024
E.g., 04/13/2024
Building a Regional Migration System

Building a Regional Migration System

Migration profoundly shapes and defines the U.S. relationship with Mexico and, increasingly, much of Central America. And as humanitarian, economic, climate, and other persistent pressures and pull factors are leading to more diverse and occasionally chaotic flows, countries in the region from Canada to Panama increasingly recognize the need for a coordinated regional approach to migration management—both to promote legal, orderly, and safe migration but also to leverage its value for countries of origin and destination alike.

Getting migration and the issues that fuel and surround it right is vital to the region’s long-term stability, prosperity, and its competitiveness in a fast-changing global economy.

MPI’s Building a Regional Migration System project is examining the changing landscape of migration trends and policies in the region from Canada to Panama. The work collected here aims to develop actionable ideas, suggest implementation strategies, inform stakeholders inside and outside of government, and foster dialogue across issues, sectors, and countries on shared regional priorities.

This work presents a new approach to managing regional migration that is centered around four pillars:

  • effective humanitarian protection systems,
  • targeted legal migration pathways,
  • professionalized migration management, and
  • informed investments in development and governance in countries of origin, transit, and reception.

The Regional Migration Study Group

MPI’s present-day work on regional migration builds upon the foundation set by its Regional Migration Study Group (2010-2015), which focused on migration and human-capital issues relevant to the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.

During its first three-year phase, MPI and the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Latin America Program/Mexico Institute convened a high-level study group that over 29 publications, biannual meetings, and briefings with regional policymakers sketched the ongoing trends, challenges, and opportunities on migration and human capital facing the region.

The Study Group was co-chaired by former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, and former Guatemalan Vice President and Foreign Minister Eduardo Stein. Its members included two dozen former government officials, civil-society leaders, and policy intellectuals from countries in the region.

The first phase of the Study Group's work culminated in a final report that outlines the powerful demographic, economic, and social forces reshaping Mexico and much of Central America and changing longstanding migration dynamics with the United States. With 14 findings and recommendations for policymakers in the region, the report offers a forward-looking, pragmatic agenda, focusing on new collaborative approaches on migration and human-capital development to strengthen competitiveness.

A second phase (2014-2015) led by MPI promoted the Study Group’s recommendations with policymakers, the business sector, and others in the region, and worked on further projects to develop and certify human capital.

Learn more about the Study Group’s mission here.

Recent Activity

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Shifting Realities at the U.S.-Mexico Border report
Reports
January 2024
By  Ariel G. Ruiz Soto, Colleen Putzel-Kavanaugh and Doris Meissner
Cover image for Programas de trabajadores temporales en Canadá, México y Costa Rica
Reports
June 2022
By  Cristobal Ramón, Ariel G. Ruiz Soto, María Jesús Mora and Ana Martín Gil
Cover image for Temporary Worker Programs in Canada, Mexico, and Costa Rica
Reports
June 2022
By  Cristobal Ramón, Ariel G. Ruiz Soto, María Jesús Mora and Ana Martín Gil
Cover image for Vías humanitarias para personas centroamericanas
Policy Briefs
May 2022
By  Susan Fratzke and Andrea Tanco
Cover image for Humanitarian Pathways for Central Americans
Policy Briefs
May 2022
By  Susan Fratzke and Andrea Tanco
Cover image for Migración de Huehuetenango en el Altiplano Occidental de Guatemala
Reports
March 2022
By  Andrew Selee, Luis Argueta and Juan José Hurtado Paz y Paz
Cover image for Migration from Huehuetenango in Guatemala’s Western Highlands
Reports
March 2022
By  Andrew Selee, Luis Argueta and Juan José Hurtado Paz y Paz
Cover image for El relanzamiento del Programa de Menores Centroamericanos
Reports
December 2021
By  Mark Greenberg, Stephanie Heredia, Kira Monin, Celia Reynolds and Essey Workie

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President Joe Biden in Mexico City.

The U.S. immigration enforcement system increasingly depends on other countries to help halt irregular movements through the Americas and accept the return of unauthorized migrants. Foreign governments play a crucial and yet underappreciated role in migration management, and can either aid or frustrate U.S. border-control aims, as this article explores.

A Haitian man hugs his daughter in Peru.

The chaotic arrival of thousands of Haitians at the U.S.-Mexico border in September 2021 was the culmination of a journey through the Americas that began for many a decade ago. This article examines how Brazil became a refuge for many after Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake, and how Haitians then moved on to Chile and other countries as conditions changed, and then onward again further north.

A caravan of migrants from Central America passes by Chiapas, Mexico.

Tens of thousands of migrants have gone missing in Mexico in recent years, with the country having one of world's highest rates of disappeared persons. In 2015, the Mexican government created institutions to investigate these cases and work with the missing migrants' families, who are often their most vocal advocates. This article explores the reasons why migrants disappear, as well the institutions established to investigate cases and their impact.

DarienMigrantBoats

Growing numbers of African and Asian migrants are moving through Latin America, many hoping to reach the United States or Canada after expensive, arduous, and often dangerous journeys that can take months or even years. As more extracontinental migrants transit through South and Central America, Colombia, Panama, and Costa Rica have developed the most comprehensive policies to manage these flows, sometimes working in coordination with the U.S. government.

MexicansinCanada

Mexicans migrate to Canada in much smaller numbers than to the United States, yet over the last 30 years the country has become an increasingly attractive destination. Canada prioritizes highly skilled, educated Mexicans for permanent residency, but also attracts temporary workers from Mexico. This article examines Mexican migration to Canada and how it has been shaped by visa requirements, trade policy, and more.

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Photo of CBP One App poster at shelter in Reynosa, Mexico
Commentaries
April 2023
By  Doris Meissner, Ariel G. Ruiz Soto and Colleen Putzel-Kavanaugh
Image of Central American migrant caravan passing through Chiapas, Mexico
Commentaries
April 2022
By  Ariel G. Ruiz Soto and Andrew Selee
MigrantCaravanMXCity2018_Wotancito_WikiCommons
Commentaries
July 2019
By  Andrew Selee, Silvia E. Giorguli-Saucedo, Claudia Masferrer and Ariel G. Ruiz Soto
MigrantsTijuanaRiverBed_BBCWorldService2014
Commentaries
July 2019
By  Andrew Selee, Silvia E. Giorguli-Saucedo, Claudia Masferrer and Ariel G. Ruiz Soto
Expert Q&A, Audio
April 24, 2023

How are U.S. border operations and policies evolving at the U.S.-Mexico border to address rising and diversifying flows? And what is driving increasing immigration from across Latin America, the Caribbean, and beyond? MPI President Andrew Selee speaks with two colleagues who traveled from one end of the nearly 2,000-mile boundary to the other, touring U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities and interviewing U.S. and Mexican officials, NGO leaders, and others.

Video, Audio
March 16, 2022

This event explores changing migration patterns from Guatemala, how policymakers and development practitioners can help create livelihood options and address other drivers of migration, and the broader lessons for policy approaches in sending and receiving countries that could help better manage migration and provide alternatives to irregular migration. This event was in Spanish with English interpretation. 

Video, Audio
March 16, 2022

En este evento de presentación del informe, los ponentes hablan sobre los cambios en los patrones de migración desde Guatemala.

World of Migration episode 7 tile
Expert Q&A, Audio
November 24, 2021

With migration a dynamic phenomenon in the Americas, the U.S. government increasingly is realizing that migration management should be viewed in a regional context. This requires a new set of policies and ways of engagement with countries in North and Central America, and beyond, as MPI President Andrew Selee discusses with colleague Andrea Tanco in this episode of our World of Migration podcast.

Video, Audio
April 15, 2021

This report release event examines migration management in Mexico and Central America, and the growing government attention to migration functions, enhanced immigration enforcement, increased investments in asylum systems and existing protection frameworks, as well as labor migration policies. This is the original audio. Speakers made their remarks in Spanish and English. There is no interpretation on this version. Spanish and English interpretations will be posted soon. 

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Recent Activity

Articles

The U.S. immigration enforcement system increasingly depends on other countries to help halt irregular movements through the Americas and accept the return of unauthorized migrants. Foreign governments play a crucial and yet underappreciated role in migration management, and can either aid or frustrate U.S. border-control aims, as this article explores.

Reports
January 2024

All eyes are on the U.S.-Mexico border, where shifting migration trends and record migrant arrivals have stretched the U.S. border management system beyond its capabilities. As the Biden administration continues to implement its new regime of incentives for orderly arrivals and disincentives for unauthorized crossings, this report analyzes the rapidly changing policy and migration realities and outlines recommendations for a more effective, durable system of border control.

Commentaries
April 2023

Facing a dramatically different reality arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border with the end of a pandemic-era policy that resulted in more than 3 million expulsions, the Biden administration unveiled a policy vision that marries expanded legal pathways with stiff consequences for those seeking to enter without authorization. The strategy can succeed, but speedier while still fair border asylum decisionmaking must be an essential component, this commentary argues.

Expert Q&A, Audio
April 24, 2023

How are U.S. border operations and policies evolving at the U.S.-Mexico border to address rising and diversifying flows? And what is driving increasing immigration from across Latin America, the Caribbean, and beyond? MPI President Andrew Selee speaks with two colleagues who traveled from one end of the nearly 2,000-mile boundary to the other, touring U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities and interviewing U.S. and Mexican officials, NGO leaders, and others.

Commentaries
October 2022

Los titulares enfocados en la cifra récord de 2,4 millones de migrantes encontrados en la frontera México-Estados Unidos durante el año fiscal 2022 encubren la historia más importante: Los flujos migratorios se han diversificado rápidamente más allá de México y el norte Centroamérica, y como resultado, las políticas de control migratorio son incongruentes con la realidad de hoy. Esto demuestra la evidente necesitad de nuevos enfoques regionales, argumenta este comentario.

Commentaries
October 2022

Headlines focusing on the record-breaking nature of the 2.4 million migrant encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal year 2022 overlook the much bigger story: Migrant and asylum seeker flows have rapidly diversified beyond Mexico and northern Central America and as a result, U.S. enforcement policies are misaligned. Today's reality sharply underscores the need for new regional approaches, this commentary argues.

Commentaries
June 2022

La Declaración de Los Ángeles sobre Migración y Protección, firmada por los líderes de los países del hemisferio occidental al concluirse la Cumbre de las Américas, supone un importante paso progresivo en la creación de un lenguaje común y un coherente conjunto de ideas para gestionar, de forma cooperativa, los flujos migratorios en las Américas, una región que ha sido testigo de una gran movilidad en años recientes.

Reports
June 2022

La migración irregular desde El Salvador, Guatemala y Honduras se ha convertido en una de las principales características del panorama migratorio en Centroamérica y Norteamérica, pero existen pocas vías legales para los centroamericanos que se ven presionados a emigrar. Este informe explora cómo Canadá, México y Costa Rica podrían utilizar los programas de trabajo temporal existentes para ampliar las opciones de migración legal.

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