AQ Feature

Ex Mex: From Migrants to Immigrants

Jorge Castaneda's stories of the tussels between Mexico and the U.S. over immigration between 2000 and 2006 win plaudits from Alexandra Délano.

There are few straightforward, objective accounts about Mexican immigration to the U.S., which partly explains not only the widespread misconceptions about immigrants but also the backlash that has developed in recent years. Amidst a complex debate and a wide range of publications adding contrasting interpretations about its costs and benefits, it is difficult for the general public to attain a clear picture of the situation. Ex Mex: From Migrants to Immigrants attempts to fill this void. Written by former Mexican foreign secretary Jorge Castañeda, Global Distinguished Professor of Politics and Latin American and Caribbean Studies at New York University, it offers a lucid account of the political debates over immigration in Mexico and the U.S., as well as a comprehensive overview of recent Mexican migration flows.

Castañeda’s experience and intimate knowledge of both countries provides a long-overdue binational perspective. It also informs his central conclusion, that a “more balanced and cautious approach” to immigration questions will benefit both the U.S. and Mexico. In simple and clear language, Ex Mex provides the intellectual foundation for what Castañeda considers the necessity of U.S. immigration reform. Castañeda himself was one of the architects of the proposed U.S.-Mexico migration agreement in 2001, an experience he discusses in the book. The negotiations ultimately failed, and his original (perhaps ambitious) motivation for the proposal and the lessons of its failure provide the basis for his recommendations for reform in the final chapter of the book.

In the first chapters, the author uses vivid examples and testimonials to explain how Mexican immigration patterns changed in the mid-1990s. Castañeda particularly emphasizes the issue of circularity (or seasonality), from which he draws the second part of the title: “From Migrants to Immigrants.” As a result of stricter border enforcement (particularly since 1994), the number of migrants returning periodically to Mexico has been considerably reduced, while the population of permanent Mexican immigrants in the U.S. (documented and undocumented) continues to grow, reaching about 11 million in 2007 (of which an estimated 6.2 million are undocumented)...

Tags: Mexico, Immigration, Jorge Castaneda, Ex Mex: From Migrants to Immigrants, Ex Mex, Mexican immigration, U.S. immigration reform

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