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Beyond Smoke and Mirrors

Mexican Immigration in an Era of Economic Integration

Douglas S. Massey, Jorge Durand, Nolan J. Malone

Publication Year: 2002

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.

Published by: Russell Sage Foundation

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

About the Authors

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

This book is a product of the Mexican Migration Project (MMP) and thus rests upon the combined efforts of many people who have worked on it as staff members, students, and postdoctoral fellows. Although it is not possible to individually name all those who have contributed to the...

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1. Ghost in the Machine: Interventions in the Mexico-U.S. Immigration System

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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...

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2. Principles of Operation: Theories of International Migration

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pp. 7-23

Most citizens and public officials think they 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...

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3. System Assembly: A History of Mexico-U.S. Migration

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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-thousandmile land border. Although...

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4. System Specifications: Empirical Parameters and Constants in the U.S.-Mexican Immigration System, 1965 to 1985

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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...

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5. A Wrench in the Works: U.S. Immigration Policies After 1986

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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...

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6. Breakdown: Failure in the Post-1986 U.S. Immigration System

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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...

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7. Repair Manual: U.S. Immigration Policies for a New Century

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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...

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Appendix A: The Mexican Migration Project Database

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pp. 165-172

Many of the tables and figures presented in this volume are based on official statistics, mostly from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and the U.S. Bureau of the Census. We also draw upon data from the Mexican National Statistical Institute, the World Bank, the...

Appendix B

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pp. 173-182


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pp. 183-192


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pp. 193-199

E-ISBN-13: 9781610443821
Print-ISBN-13: 9780871545893
Print-ISBN-10: 0871545896

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2002

OCLC Number: 835507772
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Beyond Smoke and Mirrors

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Mexico -- Foreign relations -- United States.
  • United States -- Foreign relations -- Mexico.
  • Mexicans -- United States.
  • Mexico -- Emigration and immigration -- Government policy.
  • United States -- Emigration and immigration -- Government policy.
  • Emigration and immigration law -- United States.
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