Beyond Smoke and Mirrors

Beyond Smoke and Mirrors: Mexican Immigration in an Era of Economic Integration

Douglas S. Massey
Jorge Durand
Nolan J. Malone
Copyright Date: 2002
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Beyond Smoke and Mirrors
    Book Description:

    Migration between Mexico and the United States is part of a historical process of increasing North American integration. This process acquired new momentum with the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994, which lowered barriers to the movement of goods, capital, services, and information. But rather than include labor in this new regime, the United States continues to resist the integration of the labor markets of the two countries. Instead of easing restrictions on Mexican labor, the United States has militarized its border and adopted restrictive new policies of immigrant disenfranchisement. Beyond Smoke and Mirrors examines the devastating impact of these immigration policies on the social and economic fabric of the Mexico and the United States, and calls for a sweeping reform of the current system. Beyond Smoke and Mirrors shows how U.S. immigration policies enacted between 1986–1996—largely for symbolic domestic political purposes—harm the interests of Mexico, the United States, and the people who migrate between them. The costs have been high. The book documents how the massive expansion of border enforcement has wasted billions of dollars and hundreds of lives, yet has not deterred increasing numbers of undocumented immigrants from heading north. The authors also show how the new policies unleashed a host of unintended consequences: a shift away from seasonal, circular migration toward permanent settlement; the creation of a black market for Mexican labor; the transformation of Mexican immigration from a regional phenomenon into a broad social movement touching every region of the country; and even the lowering of wages for legal U.S. residents. What had been a relatively open and benign labor process before 1986 was transformed into an exploitative underground system of labor coercion, one that lowered wages and working conditions of undocumented migrants, legal immigrants, and American citizens alike. Beyond Smoke and Mirrors offers specific proposals for repairing the damage. Rather than denying the reality of labor migration, the authors recommend regularizing it and working to manage it so as to promote economic development in Mexico, minimize costs and disruptions for the United States, and maximize benefits for all concerned. This book provides an essential "user's manual" for readers seeking a historical, theoretical, and substantive understanding of how U.S. policy on Mexican immigration evolved to its current dysfunctional state, as well as how it might be fixed.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-382-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. About the Authors
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Chapter 1 Ghost in the Machine: Interventions in the Mexico-U.S. Immigration System
    (pp. 1-6)

    If one does not understand how a complicated piece of machinery works, one should not try to fix it. Without a clear picture of how a mechanical system functions, what its basic principles are, and how its various parts interconnect to influence one another, one is unlikely to be able to restore the machinery to health if it is not working well, or to modify it effectively if a different outcome is desired. Without a clear conception of how the various moving parts of the machine fit together to function as an integrated whole, one cannot readily predict how a...

  6. Chapter 2 Principles of Operation: Theories of International Migration
    (pp. 7-23)

    Most citizens and public officialsthinkthey understand the mechanics of international migration, of course, or they would not advocate such bold proposals or act with such assured abandon. In the North American case particularly, the reasons for Mexican immigration seem obvious. The prevailing wisdom begins with the commonsense observation that the United States is a rich country and Mexico, by comparison, is not. Although Mexico’s 1997 GNP per capita of $3,700 places it in the upper tier of developing nations, it pales in comparison to the U.S. figure of $29,000, and nowhere else on earth is there such a...

  7. Chapter 3 System Assembly: A History of Mexico-U.S. Migration
    (pp. 24-51)

    In the history of international migration, that between Mexico and the United States is unique in several ways. First and foremost is the fact that it involves not just any pair of countries, but two with widely disparate standards of living that share a two-thousand-mile land border. Although the United States also shares a long border with Canada, the latter’s level of economic development is roughly comparable to the U.S. level and its average income is only fractionally lower. In addition, its population is less than one-third of Mexico’s. As a result, legal Canadian immigration to the United States averages...

  8. Chapter 4 System Specifications: Empirical Parameters and Constants in the U.S.-Mexican Immigration System, 1965 to 1985
    (pp. 52-72)

    The demise of the bracero program and increasing restrictions on legal immigration after 1965 transformed a de jure system of circular migration based on the movement of legal guest workers into a de facto machinery of seasonal migration based on the recurrent movement of undocumented laborers. Rather than being “out of control,” however, Mexico-U.S. migration by the early 1980s had evolved into a stable system with an identifiable structure. In this chapter, we describe the practical operation of this system from 1965 to 1985, focusing on seven key junctures in the migratory career: leaving, crossing, arriving, working, remitting, returning, and...

  9. Chapter 5 A Wrench in the Works: U.S. Immigration Policies After 1986
    (pp. 73-104)

    The year 1986 was pivotal for the political economy of North America. In that year, two events signaled the end of one era and the beginning of another: Mexico’s entry into the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and passage by the U.S. Congress of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). In Mexico a new political elite had succeeded in overcoming historical opposition within the ruling party and orchestrated the country’s entry into GATT. Then they boldly approached the United States to forge a new alliance that would ultimately create a free trade zone stretching from Central America...

  10. Chapter 6 Breakdown: Failure in the Post-1986 U.S. Immigration System
    (pp. 105-141)

    If there is one constant in U.S. border policy, it is hypocrisy. Throughout the twentieth century the United States has arranged to import Mexican workers while pretending not to. With the sole exception of the 1930s, when the Great Depression effectively extinguished U.S. labor demand, politicians and public officials have persistently sought ways of accepting Mexicans as workers while limiting their claims as human beings. Only the formula by which this sleight of hand is achieved has changed over time, shifting from the legerdemain of a legal guest-worker program between 1942 and 1964, to the Potemkin Village of circular undocumented...

  11. Chapter 7 Repair Manual: U.S. Immigration Policies for a New Century
    (pp. 142-164)

    Immigration policy is often cast as a Hobson’s choice between open and closed borders, between the free and unhindered movement of immigrants and the imposition of strict limitations on their numbers and characteristics. Public officials and citizens alike generally think about immigration using the conceptual apparatus of neoclassical economics, whether they realize it or not. They see a developing world filled with millions of desperately poor people who, unless they are forcibly blocked or at least strongly discouraged, will surely seek to improve their lot by moving to developed nations such as the United States. This view focuses not only...

  12. Appendices
    (pp. 165-182)
  13. References
    (pp. 183-192)
  14. Index
    (pp. 193-206)