E.g., 06/15/2024
E.g., 06/15/2024
Thinking Regionally to Compete Globally: Leveraging Migration & Human Capital in the U.S., Mexico, and Central America

This final report by the Regional Migration Study Group outlines the powerful demographic, economic, and social forces reshaping Mexico and much of Central America and changing longstanding migration dynamics with the United States. The Study Group, co-chaired by former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, former U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, and former Guatemalan Vice President and Foreign Minister Eduardo Stein, offers a forward-looking, pragmatic agenda for the United States, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras—focusing on new collaborative approaches on migration and human-capital development to strengthen regional competitiveness.

The report finds that among the factors reshaping historical patterns of migration are sustained economic growth in Mexico, demographic transitions in Mexico and parts of Central America, and institutional reforms throughout the region. Of the estimated 11 million unauthorized individuals in the United States, the report notes that approximately 73 percent are nationals of Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, and suggests an expansive legalization program be promoted during negotiations over U.S. immigration reform. Other key policy recommendations include: the creation of an independent federal agency tasked with conducting labor market research and advising the government on employment-based immigration levels; an expansion of the portability provision to include holders of certain temporary work visas; and the promotion of circularity and two-way exchange across regional migration systems.

The report was ranked in the 2013 Global Go To Think Tank Index as the 11th Best Report Produced by a Think Tank for 2012-2013, and the MPI-Wilson Center's Mexico Institute collaboration on the Regional Migration Study Group was rated the world's 18th Best Institutional Collaboration Involving Two or More Think Tanks. Learn more here.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

A. Understanding Regional Migration

B. Migration Policy Has Not Kept Pace with Regional Economic Integration

II. Changing Assumptions

A. Demographic Outlook

B. Changing Flows

C. Economic Growth

III. Institutional Reforms and the Rule of Law

A. Creating Rule-of-Law Frameworks for Migration Management Throughout the Region

B. Reducing Corruption by Building Capacity and Confidence in Law Enforcement Institutions

C. Promoting a Culture of Economic Growth and Productivity by Encouraging Formal Economic Activity

IV. Immigration Policies: Making the U.S. Immigration System More Responsive to Labor Market and Economic Needs

A. Today's Reality

B. Introducing Flexibility Into the Economic Immigration Stream

C. Remaking Visa Policies to Respond to Labor Market Realities and Experiences

D. Legalization

V. New Approaches to Migration Reform in Mexico and Central America: An Evolving Role for Mexico

Modernizing Mexico's Migration System

VI. Regional Migration and Human Capital: A Longer-Term Regional Vision for Human-Capital Development

A. Barriers and Opportunities to Building and Activating Human Capital

B. Recognizing the Importance of Circularity

C. Building Qualifications that Are Recognized and Portable Across the Region

VII. Conclusions and Recommendations