Migration One of Mexico's "Top Public Policy Priorities"

By Kausha Luna on December 16, 2015

Mexico's Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Claudia Ruiz Massieu, made her first visit to Washington this week in her new capacity. She spoke publicly at an event hosted by the Migration Policy Institute and the Woodrow Wilson Center, focusing on migration – an issue which she deemed as one of the "top public policy priorities" for Mexico.

In her opening statement, Ruiz Massieu lamented that in some places migration had been met by "an irresponsible and dangerous narrative of xenophobia and exclusion that wrongly portrays immigrants as security concerns." She went on to state that these narratives are "unsustainable" and sell among some audiences due to misinformation on the effects of migration. She suggested the focus should be on the contributions that migrants make and not on their costs, emphasizing that we should "embrace migration as an opportunity." The rest of her comments revolved around Mexico's own policies on migration, which can be summarized using Mexico's "mantra" which states, "Governments should work not to close borders and limit migration, but make significant efforts to increase safe and secure migration flows. Balance, between the need for greater mobility and security concerns and interests, is an attainable goal."

As such, Ruiz Massieu noted Mexico has focused on three things: regional cooperation with the rest of Central America to improve conditions for migrants, better serving Mexican nationals in the United States, and better serving Mexican nationals returning to the country.

In terms of Mexico's cooperation with its neighbors to the south, Ruiz Massieu emphasized several efforts. She said one critical point of cooperation is the creation of infrastructure that allows for safe and orderly migration flows. Additionally, Mexico is working with Central American countries to recognize the contributions that migrants make not only to the places of destination but also to places of transit. She also highlighted that cooperation efforts have included a focus on the capacity of Central American countries to provide conditions in which their people may prosper.

Addressing the topic of increased border enforcement at Mexico's southern border, Secretary Ruiz Massieu stressed that it is not a result from U.S. pressure. She added that Mexico is working at its southern border because it is in the interest of not just Mexico, but also its neighbors, to create a secure and prosperous region. When asked about reports of increasing maltreatment of Central American migrants in Mexico, she responded that the "Frontera Sur" ("Southern Border") program has created a mechanism for reporting violations and is in the process of improving conditions at Mexico's southern border.

Speaking about Mexican nationals abroad, Ruiz Massieu praised the consular ID, or matricula consular, as a document that makes Mexican nationals a more "visibly productive" part of the communities in which they live. (The matricula card is mainly used by illegal aliens; legal immigrants, by definition, already have U.S. government-issued identification, such as green cards.) She went on to applaud states that accept the consular ID and denounced those that did not. Additionally, Ruiz Massieu said that one of Mexico's responsibilities is to "empower" Mexicans abroad, i.e., to ensure that they have full access to all the benefits and rights available to them. To that end, Mexico has adopted a policy of encouraging eligible Mexican nationals to pursue U.S. citizenship. This line of reasoning also explains why Mexico decided to file amicus curiae brief in a lawsuit filed by four illegal-alien mothers whose children had been denied birth certificates by the Texas Department of State Health Services because the mothers had only matricula cards as ID.

With respect to the third focus – Mexicans returning to Mexico – Ruiz Massieu said the government is in the process creating "comprehensive" spaces where returning nationals can seek help on a range of topics (education, health, employment), thus, facilitating the re-integration process.

Overall, the Secretary's presentation of Mexico's migration policies strongly mirrored the attitude that prevails among the academic and political elite in the United States. As Mexico's "mantra" puts it, Mexico is not in the business of "closing borders and limiting migration."

Topics: Mexico