How Can We Create Immigration Policy that Works? – Podcast with Former Mexican President Zedillo

September 12, 2016

“The lack of bilateral understanding between Mexico and the United States has led to the problem we have today,” says Ernesto Zedillo, President of Mexico from 1994-2000, and co-chair of the CGD Working Group that has produced a new report called Shared Border, Shared Future: A Blueprint to Regulate US-Mexico Labor Mobility.

“Policies have given rise to a black market in the labor force and that has been bad for American workers and bad for Mexican workers that tried to migrate to the US seeking better opportunities.”

With his fellow co-chair former US Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, President Zedillo co-authored a recent op-ed in the New York Times (also here in Spanish) that argues “there is a better way. We believe both countries must now arrive at a lasting, innovative and cooperative solution.”

In this edition of the CGD podcast, President Zedillo explains how the new CGD report, whose lead author is CGD’s migration expert Michael Clemens, addresses in detail the root cause of the problems and the politics we see today: namely, the illegality of much migration between Mexico and the US. It takes as its starting point what it describes as the "black market in labor" that has grown in the US in the last half century, ever since the last agreement on regulated, legal labor mobility between the two countries ended.

“It would be better,” says President Zedillo, “to have a regulated, well-managed way for bringing those workers to provide the necessary labor force in a way that you don’t damage American workers and also you don’t allow the very negative aspects of undocumented migration.”

Protecting workers in both countries is a key foundation of Shared Border, Shared Future, which also underscores the critical need to clamp down on illegal cross-border movement of people. The time is right for such an agreement, the report argues, because net flows of people between Mexico and the US are approaching zero.

The report is the product of an illustrious bilateral, bipartisan group of experts from across the political, geographical and sectoral divides: from the highest levels of government in both Mexico and the US to labor advocates, employers' groups, national security experts, and scholars in law, economics and politics.

As always I encourage you to comment on the podcast, and share widely!


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.