Thursday, August 1, 2013

Discussing the Unspoken Aspects of IRCA:
Mexico and its Response

“The possible passage of a new immigration law in the United States has generated animated responses from numerous groups and institutions in Mexico intent on analyzing the migratory situation and the possible repercussions of such legislation.”
-President Miguel de la Madrid[1] [2]
By the time that Senate bill 1200 reached President Reagan’s desk on November 6, 1986, it had spent over four years passing through the halls of congress; It had been revisited, reconsidered, and rewritten numerous times in its lengthy history. Prior to its passage, the bill was known as the Simpson-Mazzoli bill, named after its two sponsors in the houses of Congress. Once enacted, however, it became known as the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). This act promised to bolster US border patrol resources and place heavy fines on employers who knowingly hired undocumented workers. In exchange for these punitive measures, IRCA also allowed for an increase in the number of temporary agricultural work visas as well as a path to amnesty for the estimated two million undocumented immigrants. This bill represented the single largest overhaul to the American immigration system since the end of the Braceros program in 1964.
The object of this paper is not to study the road to IRCA, but rather the international response to such legislation. Much of the American scholarship on this topic focuses solely on domestic US politics. This research aims to place this legislation in a more international context by studying Mexican politics immediately preceding and immediately following the passage of the momentous immigration reform bill. This paper consists of two parts: Part I focuses on contextualizing the Mexican political climate that confronted Mexican politicians upon the passage of IRCA while Part II discusses the actions taken by the Mexican government in response to the new immigration system.
            The 1980s proved to be a period of transition for the Mexican authorities ‘ perception of migration. Prior to this period, the Mexican population viewed migration, both internal and external, as a positive trait that benefitted communities on both sides of the border. While this positive view migration remains to this day, it has become tempered with other considerations in the wake of IRCA. Following the passage of the Simpson-Mazzoli bill, the Mexican federal government began to focus on the negative effects of immigration in the way of human and workers’ rights violations as well as the negative repercussions this trend had for Mexican development. Following this realization, the Mexican government began to play a more active role in the lives of these immigrant communities

Part I: Mexican migration overview


            Beginning in 1946, the United States and Mexican government signed a series of accords by which would become known as the Bracero Program. This program, which would last until 1964 provided temporary work visas to hundreds of thousands of Mexican laborers to work in the US to fill any possible gaps in their employment during the war period. This labor exchange significantly increased migration between Mexico and its northern neighbor. Although the Bracero program ended in 1964, it had established lasting migratory channels between Mexico and the United States and much of the migration continued in the form of undocumented travelers.
            Mexico experienced a change in the nature of its internal migration. By the 1980s the northern Mexican border experience two decades of continuous population growth due to internal migration and high birth rates.[3] The increased border population was largely the result of the Mexican government’s attempts to industrialize the border region which began in 1965 following the end of the Bracero Program. The northern states had become a stop-gap for many migrant workers seeking passage to the United States.
This increase in border activity was linked to the rise of Import Substitution Industrialization (ISI) in Mexico. ISI was an economic model based on importing unprocessed materials while exporting finalized products. Under this system, the federal government played an active role in the economy as a promoter of economic development, regulator of necessary markets, investor in strategic areas, and promoter of the general welfare of the population. In order to fulfill such responsibilities, the government enacted several laws aimed at protecting workers in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors. It also created several social and educational institutions aimed at creating a more efficient and skilled labor force.[4]
Although the Mexican government experienced substantial economic growth from 1956-1981, the period in which it enacted ISI policies, by the 1980s this model proved unsustainable. The laws and policies required for this interventionist economic policy had left the Mexican government severely in debt to its largest trading partner, the United States. This debt would prove critical following a dip in international petroleum prices in 1981.[5] Mexico was dependent on its petroleum exports, which funded many of its policies, and in mid 1981 the fall in petroleum prices coupled with stagnation in export prices to create an economic crisis for the Mexican government. In response to the economic shortfall, the Mexican government borrowed heavily from foreign short loans market. The economic crisis that began at the outset of the 1980s would persist throughout the rest of the decade and would result in a change from ISI to a new economic model known as neoliberalism.
            The growth of the Mexican city was a trend closely linked to the economic models of ISI and neoliberalism, both of which favored manufacturing and commerce. As a result, the migratory trends that led to population growth on Mexico’s northern border also affected large urban centers. Although cities like Monterrey, Gaudalajara, and Puebla experienced exponential growth, Mexico D.F. experienced the most pronounced demographic explosion in these decades. In 1970, Mexico’s national capital held 18% of the nation’s population; by 1980, the city had swelled to house a population 16 million, or 23% of the national population, and it produced nearly 50% of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP).[6] The process of centralization and urban growth in Mexico D.F. began with the construction of extensive train networks around the country at the end of the 19th century but had accelerated in recent decades as the economic models emphasized by the government favored large urban centers often at the expense of rural populations. [7]
            These concerns were all compounded by the fact that the Mexican political system in the 1980s was run by the political machine of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI).The PRI was a political party that emerged from the Mexican Revolution (1910-1917). The PRI ruled Mexico as a single party for the rest of the twentieth century. During the course of its singe-party rule, the PRI was known for its corruption and token elections. In the 1960s the Mexican population began to show their dissatisfaction through protests and by the 1980s, the PRI political system was in peril.

International Cold War Context

It is impossible to separate the political thought confronting Mexican politicians discussing immigration from the international, Cold War context in which it occurred. Although traditional academic works have focused on the European and Asian events in this conflict between East and West, the Cold War remained a real, heated competition in Latin America in the 1980s.  From the success of the Cuban Revolution in the 1960s, the United States retained a constant and consistent fear of Soviet satellites in the Western hemisphere.
Mexico was not exempted from the United States’ paranoia concerning Soviet incursions. Throughout the decade of the 1980s, North American news outlets constantly published articles discussing the fragility of the Mexican economic system. Mexican authorities received regular updates on all publications that speculated on Mexican affairs from The Wall Street Journal to The Washington Post to The New York Times. These articles often quoted high ranking US officials discussing the dangers posed by the a dissatisfied Mexican public, a stagnant economy, and a zealous Soviet Union looking to expand its sphere of influence onto the North American continent. In one such article published in 1983, the Senator, and former Democratic candidate for presidency, Henry Jackson was quoted saying, “If the [Mexican] government were destabilized by the fall in petroleum prices, the international debt and internal unrest, it is possible that a revolution will unfold and we will encounter a Castro-like government on our borders.” [8] Such a move, Senator Jackson concluded, “could force us to deploy certain military units [along the border] that would be tied up.”[9] This conflation of border security with Cold War détente by a ranking member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee did not go unnoticed nor was it unique.
Senator Jackson’s concern, as well as that of many other such critics, was due to civil unrest in smaller Central American countries of Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala. United States intelligence had believed that these revolts against corrupt and despotic governments were inspired by Cuban and Soviet meddling and they feared that this Soviet expansionism would spread north. The situation in Mexico’s southern neighbors affected Mexican diplomacy in two ways: first, it made US authorities wary of the stability of the status quo in Mexico and second, it inspired American politicians to view Mexico as an avenue for influencing events in Central American republics.
This criticism from their northern neighbor led to a diplomatic estrangement between the US and Mexico. Perhaps the most pronounced fallout occurred in response to the presentation of an ABC 1982 news special titled Mexico, Time of Crisis. This program, which concluded that Mexico found itself in the middle of a profound economic, political and social crisis that had created a situation favorable to revolution, produced a great discomfort among Mexican officials. Numerous reports in SRE archives document the political backlash that this program produced among Mexican officials:
One legislator was of the opinion that the program [Mexico, Time of Crisis] was part of an anti-Mexican campaign by the North American press attempting to discredit the current administration of President Jose Lopez Portillo and intimidate the incoming president. [10]

            Although Mexican politicians were aware of many of the challenges confronting their government, they were deeply resentful of these accusations of political unrest from various American sources. This resentment would be voiced in several of the bi-national congresses between the two nations and would be revisited several times in other diplomatic settings. Mexican authorities would occasionally resist North American pressure in order to defy these expectations.
This situation in Central America caused US authorities to pressure Mexican authorities to comply with their policies towards the small southern republics. Even though the Mexican Republic had incorporated a policy of non-intervention into its 1917 constitution, the US did not view their opposition to US military intervention as justified. This pressure by US officials was made visible to the general public on both sides of the border as diplomatic conversations were often shared with the press. In 1984, the Mexican newspaper Excelsior covered a speech by president Ronald Reagan where he emphasized the role of diplomacy in convincing Mexico of the need to change it’s policy; these calls for diplomatic solutions were coupled with threats of economic sanctions at a time when the Mexican economy dependent on US goodwill in order to renegotiate its debt.[11]


Financial Considerations

            By 1982, the Mexican government found itself in the intense throws of an economic recession that would last the rest of the decade. The economic crisis had several causes including a fall in petroleum prices, high level of public debt, stagnation of exportation prices and volume, capital flight, and an unprecedented acceleration in inflation. [12] [13]  Petroleum was one of Mexico’s most important exports and was used, along with foreign credit, to fund the ISI economy in Mexico. Mexico’s foreign debt of 80 billion US dollars made it the nation with the second highest level of foreign debt in the world after Brazil.[14] In the wake of this financial catastrophe, many financiers expected a devaluation of the Mexican peso and speculated that Mexico would nationalize its banks which led to a flight of capital in the private sector.
            The financial crisis played an important role in determining Mexican response to US immigration policy because Mexico’s economic development was dependent upon US aid and because Mexican authorities feared the potential repercussions of such legislation. During the process of renegotiating the foreign debt – a process that would last for years to come – the United States pressured Mexican authorities to comply with new economic policies of free trade. This change in the economic model would necessitate a general deregulation of the economy and significant privatization of public works. Under the ISI model of development, Mexico had resisted international pressure to join free-trade organizations such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trades (GATT) but this policy was reversed in a 1985 speech by the Mexican president Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado.[15] This process of economic restructuring began during the presidency of Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado and would continue into the tenure of his successors.
            In response to Mexican request for debt restructuring, the United States proposed that all future aid would require a Mexican economic restructuring based on neoliberalist principles. These requests were captured in the 1985 Baker Plan, named after the then US Secretary of the Treasury, James Baker, which required debtor nations to adopt severely curtailed budgets and liberalize their markets to foreign trade in exchange for creditor nations guaranteeing the continuation of loans and a lifting of protectionist barriers.[16] Mexico had little choice in the matter given its high level of foreign owned debt and it formally accepted the plan in May 1986; in July of the same year, Mexico would also join GATT.
            Despite the economic restructuring, or as some scholars would argue because of it, the 1980s remained a decade of economic stagnation. President Madrid’s tenure from 1982 to 1986 was known as el sexenio del crecimiento cero or “the six year term of zero growth”. [17] President Madrid, who came into office mere months after the recession, inherited the financial calamity from his predecessor, President Jorge Lopez Portillo. One of his most immediate and important tasks was to stem the flight of capital by reassuring agents in the business sector and labor organizations, traditional alliances of the ruling PRI party. From 1982 to 1985, president Madrid launches an austerity program in order to target the foreign debt which he declared his first priority in office. [18]
Amid this financial uncertainty, Mexican emigration increased as many sought stable, well paying Jobs in response to the Mexican recession. By December 1982, the Mexican peso was devaluated for the third time since the crisis had begun and the Mexican currency had lost 46% of its buying power. This collapse in real salaries of Mexican households ensured that many families and individuals from the working class were now living in poverty and on impossible salaries, if they were lucky enough to retain their jobs. These factors led to an increase in migration, both internal and external, within Mexico; rural regions were vacated as families left to urban centers or the northern border on the promise of a living wage. Much of this migration flowed into Mexico City in the nation’s center or to the northern states where the economy was closely linked with that of the United States and inhabitants had an opportunity to cross the border.
            Mexico realized that their fate was dire but they feared that it could become worse. For much of twentieth century, Mexico viewed emigration as a necessary component to economic growth; migration was the product of lack of employment in Mexico and would allow for an easing of the pressure on the Mexican labor force by removing some workers from the competition for the finite number of Mexican jobs.[19]


Part II: Mexican Response

End of “Policy of No Policy”

“In order to fulfill the objective of protecting the rights and interests of Mexican nationals abroad, this administration aims to fulfill the following goals: Improving the effectiveness of consuls….establishing mechanisms for the communication of information between different officials within the Federal government… intensification of multilateral efforts to codify global workers’ rights…and protect the rights of undocumented Mexican workers who reside in neighboring countries…”
-President Carlos Salinas de Gortari[20]
The passage above comes from Mexican President Carlos Salinas’ reading of his international objectives before the Mexican Congress in 1989; it represents a sharp departure from previous administration in that it lists the rights of undocumented Mexican immigrants as a concern for the Mexican government. Although prior administrations would often claim to protect the rights of Mexican nationals who resided abroad, this was the first time that the Mexican government distinguishes between documented and undocumented migrants and claims a right to protect the latter as well as the former. This reflects a change in Mexican attitudes towards incorporating Mexican undocumented immigrants into their government following the passage of IRCA.
            Prior to the passage of IRCA, Mexico had adopted a policy of acquiescence to the diplomatic goals of its most important trading partner, especially with regards to immigration. Although the United States and Mexico held fundamentally different views towards international migration, Mexican officials had made little effort to influence American policy. In 1986, Bernardo Sepulveda, the Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations wrote, “In any case, our country has been largely absent in the debate over the immigration reforms in the United States.”[21] Although the U.S.-Mexico border had long been characterized by its porous nature, Mexico had rarely made efforts to curb migration moving north. On a few situations the Mexican government deployed large amounts of troops to police the border but these efforts were short lived and generally the Mexican side of the border went unpatrolled.[22] In one instance in 1954 where the Mexican federal government deployed troops, it followed a failed attempt to renegotiate the Bracero agreement; the deployed troops were confronted with mob violence as thousands of workers gathered in border cities to protest the closing of the border and shortly thereafter the Mexican government removed the troops. [23] By the 1980s, the Mexican government had rejected any attempts to police their side of the border. In 1989, Fernando Solana, the Secretary of Foreign Relations under President Salinas stated that, “[Mexico] has refused and will refuse to use force to detain the flow of Mexican migrants to the US territory and has repeatedly denied overtures to cooperate with international efforts to intercept migratory workers from third parties.”[24]
            Although the Mexican government had decided not to reprimand the population that attempted to establish better lives north of the border, it also did little to protect the rights of these migrants prior to the passage of IRCA. Many scholars have called the period between the end of the Bracero program and the passage of IRCA the period of “policy of no policy”, which is to say that the Mexican government acknowledged the reality of transnational migration across its northern border and it did little to intervene. On occasion it would create working groups with American officials to research this phenomenon but rarely would it do anything that actually affected the lives of immigrants. The Mexican government during this period did little more than repeat its argument that undocumented migration was an inevitable result of two countries of differing development sharing a border and that the US should come to terms with this reality. [25] Operating under this belief, Mexican authorities did little to protect the undocumented Mexican population residing abroad; until the mid-1980s that is. It also allowed them to retain credibility when they asked to United States not to interfere in Mexican domestic policy since they were respecting US sovereignty with regards to its own domestic policy.[26] This policy of non-intervention was also due in large part to the acknowledged impotence of the Mexican government when it came to influencing what was perceived to be US domestic policy.
            Due to the lengthiness of the legislative process surrounding the bill, several interests group within Mexico had organized to express their dissatisfaction with what they perceived as an attack on the basic human rights as well as the attacks on labor rights of undocumented immigrants by the time that the Simpson-Mazzoli bill had been enacted. In 1985, the Mexican Senate convened a series of town-hall style meetings to gauge public reception of the proposed Simpson-Mazzoli bill that seemed to be gaining traction. In the second of these meetings, the audience recommended that the Federal government needed to take a more active role in educating the Mexican population, especially those from the border region, about the protections available to them.[27] This sentiment was conveyed in the other meetings held; far from wishing to deter migration, the population voiced their desire to aid the migratory population and ensure their protection.
This message had gained a militant overtone in the northern border region where protests had been a regular occurrence for years. On July 1, 1984, the presidential candidate Jesse Jackson led a protest of two thousand marchers from the border to Tijuana in opposition to the Simpson-Mazzoli bill among other things.[28] The northern regions would also be riled up in 1985 following the death of 12 year old Humberto Carrillo by a US border patrol agent. Several marches were held in San Ysidro, California as well as in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico demanding not only the dismissal of the agent responsible for the death but also an end to the US efforts to militarize the border.[29] The populations of Mexican descent on both sides of the border were dissatisfied with the current efforts to deal with the shared border and they clamored for their government to play a more active role in determining the fate of this migratory population.
            By the late 1980s, the influence of these organized efforts had become apparent as diplomats began to reflect the language of expressed by their constituents. By 1988, the outgoing undersecretary of Foreign Relations Alfonso de Rosenzweig-Diaz advised the president that, “The protection of Mexicans while abroad is one of the priorities for the Mexican Consular Service; it is a responsibility that has acquired increased importance in the United States due to the large number of compatriots that reside there or that migrate there as temporary labor.” [30] Whenever President Madrid would speak to the issue, he would emphasize his role in drawing US attention to protecting labor and social rights of undocumented Mexicans. Public pressure had inspired Mexican officials to adopt a more pronounced, pro-immigrant stance in these discussions.
            Some argue that this change in rhetoric did not extend past words. The scholar Francisco Alba argues that no significant change in the Mexican approach towards dealing with undocumented migration to the United States was achieved until the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994. [31] While I agree that the most significant change in Mexican legislation occurred after President Madrid had left office, I would argue that President Madrid began a process of consular reform that paved the way for future change; moreover, the responsiveness of the Mexican federal government to popular opinion was a new development that resulted from the internal and external pressure that the governing PRI party felt during the economic crisis of the 1980s.


Consular Reform

Much of the new found responsibility for protecting immigrants’ rights in the United States fell to the Mexican consuls; as a representative of the Mexican government, these offices were easily and quickly adapted to address the new concerns that rose in response to the passage of the Simpson-Mazzoli bill. Once passed, the Simpson-Mazzoli bill created a special legal council within the Justice Department to address discrimination complaints. Although this resource would be made available only to US citizens and foreigners that had begun the process of naturalization, this was one avenue of recourse available to vulnerable populations and consulates were educated on how to access it. [32] The fact that this office could provide aid to populations that had begun the process of naturalization made it relevant to the undocumented immigrants that had arrived in the US prior to January 1, 1982 – only immigrants that had been continuously present in the United States from some period prior to this date were allowed to stay. Consuls were issued several packets of information detailing the process of regularizing ones status and the resources available to someone once they decided to do so. Since immigrants that wished to regularize their status needed to demonstrate that they did not have any prior legal infractions, the Mexican consulates also played an active role in this process as they helped facilitate the transfer of information.
In order to address this new portfolio of responsibilities, the Mexican consulates and embassies needed restructuring. The expansion of the consulate budget began in the early 1980s; Between December 1980 and April 1981, the SRE increased the allotted budget to the 39 Mexican consulates in the US from 125 thousand US dollars to 800 thousand dollars. [33] The consulate restructuring that occurred under the Madrid administration was not limited to mere budgetary increases. The 40 Mexican consulates in the United States were reorganized geographically in order to best serve the Mexican population abroad. [34] In addition to geographic shuffling, the SRE instituted a new program that compiled, processed and circulated information to the consulates and would inform them about their responsibilities as well as explain instructions. [35] This process of restructuring would continue under the subsequent administration under Salinas.[36]
In addition to putting new legal resources in place for Mexican immigrants in the United States, consuls also attempted to establish cultural links between migrant and Hispanic communities in the United States. This served to increase consulate access to resources that could provide legal aid to undocumented migrants. [37] This team up was seen in events and protests against the Simpson-Mazzoli bill. These efforts to bolster cultural connections between transient and permanent US populations was largely inspired by similar organizations that had arisen to oppose the 1980s US legislation. Labor representatives from the AFL-CIO were invited to Mexico to meet with representatives from the Confederacion de Trabajadores Mexicanos and discuss the flow of labor between the two countries and how to oppose massive deportations. [38] These meetings evolved into more lasting collaborations across borders. Inspired by the success of these movements, the Mexican government sought to incorporate their strategy in order to gain access to advocate networks with similar interests on the other side of the border.


Legislative and electoral reform

            Another avenue for pursuing change in the U.S.-Mexico migratory system was legal reform.  In 1996, following several high profile attacks on Mexican migrants in the United States, Mexico amended its constitution to explicitly list the freedom to migrate as a fundamental right. This change came in the form of article 11 to the nation’s constitution which guaranteed the free movement of citizens across national territory. [39] This was an indication of Mexican government’s realization of the impossible task of attempting to prevent emigration. Although this did not end the formal regulation and process of crossing borders, it did lay out the government’s position in support of migrant population.
            In the same year, the Mexican government enacted a constitutional amendment that enfranchised Mexican citizens who resided abroad. [40] This reform, which allowed Mexican citizens to vote for in Mexican presidential elections while abroad, was part of a larger campaign by the PRI to enact populist measures but it also reflected the changing views of immigrants’ rights in Mexico. Mexican emigrants, regardless of their legal status while abroad, now retained their right to fully participate in Mexican politics and retain their links to the Mexican government.
            This newfound concern with the wellbeing of immigrants was also reflected in the words of Fernando Solana, the Secretary of Foreign Relations under President Salinas:
The Protection and defense of the rights and interests of Mexican citizens abroad constitutes a priority for the Republic…In the last year we addressed the needs of over 30,000 cases of protection, 8,000 visits to hospitals, work places, detention centers and prisons. [41] 


New approach to development

            Following the failure of the ISI model in the early 1980s, Mexico was forced to reconsider its economic policies both by internal pressure – demands for jobs and an end to excessive inflation – as well as by external pressure – usually in the form of US banks. As a result of this situation, the entire economic model began to be questioned.
Prior to this transition emigration was viewed as beneficial to nation’s economy because it allowed for the acquisition of worker experience using agricultural machinery, remittances, and a relief valve for the high levels of unemployment. [42]  These explained, in part, the Mexican government’s lax attempts at policing the border. Beginning in the 1980s, however, this view changed. Anthropologists and economists began studying the negative impact that migration had on developing communities as it stripped them of their working age population and created cycles of dependency on remittances that led to inflation. No longer did Mexican authorities believe that migration, whether permanent or temporary, contributed to the economic development of impoverished regions. [43] Suddenly, the need to stem the migratory tide became a priority for the government.
In order to address these economic causes of massive migration, the Mexican government began to shift its focus away from stimulating urban centers to stimulating developing regions. For the last few decades, rural populations had flocked to cities creating a demographic explosion. In the 1980s, the Mexican government refocused its efforts on reducing the exodus of Mexicans from rural and developing regions. The economic development plans of the Madrid administration listed population retention, reorientation and relocation as priorities. [44] Under this plan, the Mexican government attempted to decentralize the industrial and manufacturing centers of the country and move these factors away from the cities.[45] [46] This plan attempted to stimulate economic growth by identifying regions and offering incentives to private investors to create industrial parks
These efforts were intensified under the Salinas administration. In his Plan Nacional de Poblacion released in 1989, President Salinas described his objectives to, “distribute the population in a national territory, and encourage responsive development where regions specialize in producing goods and services according to their strengths. I look to stem the tide of hyper-concentration in the large metropolitan centers.” [47] The government achieved these stated goals by attempting to integrate metropolitan zones with other regions of having regions specialize in areas where they had a comparative advantage. The administration also incorporated private businesses in the creation and operation of rural and urban public goods as it privatized significant parts of the economy. [48]


Two Case Studies: Monterrey



            Northern Mexico had a unique experience during the 1980s. Unlike other regions of the country, Northern Mexico’s economy was closely linked to that of the United States that provided a buffer from many of the problems that ailed the general Mexican economy. This region often operated as a self contained unit with relatively little interstate communication with the rest of the country. [49] Monterrey is one of the largest cities in Mexico and it is situated in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon, a state that extends all the way to the U.S.- Mexico border. Monterrey rose to prominence at the beginning of the 20th century as a major producer and exporter of iron and steel that helped build an industrializing country.
            While the Federal government attempted to redefine its position in regards to immigration, Monterrey was able to play a unique role. As one of the largest urban centers in the northern states, Monterrey had become an integral part of cyclical migration chains by which returning migrants and new migrants seeking to reunite with family members would originate from or pass through. As such, the city of Monterrey was the place of origin for many of the immigrants in the southwester United States. In the 1980s, Monterrey elected officials knew of the antagonistic relationship between US citizens and migrant populations in these US border states. [50] In response to these protests, Monterrey developed close relationship with its sister-cities Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio and Los Angeles. [51] These cities would go on to refuse to work with Immigrant and Naturalization Services in the creation of detention centers for undocumented immigrants.

            The transformation of the Simpson-Mazzoli bill into IRCA was one of the most profound changes to the unique U.S.-Mexico relationship. It directly transformed US immigration procedure and inspired a fundamental repositioning on the part of the Mexican government. This is often an issue that is examined within a purely domestic context at the expense of the diplomatic history that surrounded the issue.
While this paper is an attempt to advocate for a more nuanced view of the international context of the 1980s in which the US-Mexico confrontations played out, it is by no means an attempt to absolve the Mexican government of any negative policies they enacted during this time period. I have listed several examples of positive Mexican policy enactments that benefitted a vulnerable population but that is not to say there were no instances of intransigence, mismanagement, and general apathy with regards to the wellbeing of migrants. The Mexican government retained many of the corrupt qualities that had defined it in decades prior and responded to public pressure slowly.
            We now find ourselves 30 years removed from the political maneuverings of the 1980s but the “immigration problem” has persisted and intensified. Today there are now an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. This burgeoning population has inspired several attempts to correct the issue in the past decade. Much of the current debate closely mirrors debates that surrounded the Simpson-Mazzoli bill. Representatives and Senators continue to focus on increasing border security, dealing with visa limits, and granting amnesty. Thirty years have come and gone but the discussion has yet to progress.


            I would like to take this space to thank the Fox Family for this wonderful journey that they allowed me to embark upon. When I arrived in Mexico in August 2012, I arrived at a time of transition. Mexico was in the middle of a historic presidential race that saw the PRI return to power after 12 years out of office. I witnessed the rallies and significant mobilization in opposition to the victory of President Enrique Peña Nieto. I was also in Mexico to witness the country’s response to the death of the Columbian President Hugo Chavez; although the figure had little direct relationship to Mexico, his status as a Latin American icon meant that Mexico responded to his passing in a manner quite different from the United States. None of this would have been possible without the support of the Fox Family.

[1]  Note on the text: This work draws heavily from many Mexican government sources. As such, many of the quotes included in this work were originally recorded in Spanish and have been translated into English by the author. The original, untranslated text will be included in the footnotes
[2]“La posible aprobación de una nueva ley de inmigración en los EUA ha generado diversas acciones de diferentes organismos e instituciones mexicanas, tendientes a analizar de fondo el problema migratorio y las posibles repercusiones de una legislación sobre la materia.” “Informe Sobre los Acontecimientos en América del Norte.” Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, May 1985. p.23
[3]  Mario Margulis and Rodolfo Tuiran, Desarollo y Poblacion de La Frontera Norte: El Caso de Reynosa (Mexico: El Colegio de Mexico, 1986). Pp.36
[4] Inelvo Moreno Alvarez, Desarollo Economico y Proceso Legislativo, “La Intervencion del Sector Publico en la economía: un análisis comparativo de periodo de desarrollo estabilizador frente al neoliberalismo económico”. (PRD, 2006). Pp. 105
[5] Alfonso Corona Rentería and Juan Sánchez Gleason, Integración del norte de México a la economía nacional: perspectivas y oportunidades ([México, D.F].: SPP, Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 1989). P. 27
[6] Ibid., P. 21
[7] Ibid., P. 19
[8] Quoted Translated from: Si el gobierno (mexicano) se desestabilizara por la baja de los precios del petróleo, las deudas internacional y la disensión interna, podría haber una revolución y nos podríamos encontrar con el gobierno castrista en nuestra frontera.”
    “El Objetivo Real de La Labor Castro-Soviética En América Latina Es México: Senador Jackson (D),” El Universal, February 21, 1983.
[9] Original Source: “Mexico Is a Soviet Target, Senator Jackson Claims.” San Francisco Chronicle. February 4, 1982.
    This article was recorded in letter by the Mexican Consul in LA, Luis F. Orci, in a daily report to the Secretary of Foreign Relations.
[10] ABC Producio Un Programa de Television Titulados  “Mexico, Tiempo de Crisis,” July 29, 1982, SER.
[11] Danuta Walewska, Rzezpolita (diario) 4 de Julio 1984: El “Excelsior” Sobre La Directiva Secreta 124"; Washington Plantea Una Brutal Injeraencia, n.d.
[12] Guadalupe Beatriz Acuna de Pena, “Migración y Fuerza de Trabajo En La Frontera Norte de México,” Estudios Fronterizos 1, no. 2 (December 1983). Pp. 109
[13] Alfonso Corona Rentería and Juan Sánchez Gleason, P.27-28
[14] Isabelle Rousseau, México, una revolución silenciosa?: élites gubernamentales y proyecto de modernización, 1970-1995 (México: El Colegio de México, Centro de Estudios Internacionales, 2001). Pp.143
[15] Examen de La Situación Económica En México, vol. 62 (Banamex, 1986). Pp. 27-28
[16] Isabelle Rousseau, México, Pp.187
[17]Inelvo Moreno Alvarez, Desarollo Economico y Proceso Legislativo, “La Intervención del Sector Publico en la economía: un análisis comparativo de periodo de desarrollo estabilizador frente al neoliberalismo económico”. (PRD, 2006). Pp. 105
[18] Isabelle Rousseau, Pp.160-182
[19] Azucena Valderrabano and Blanche Petrich, “Afectara La Carta Silva a Mas de 30 Mil Mexicanos,” Uno Mas Uno, January 14, 1982.
[20] Objetivos de La Acción Internacional de México En El Plan Nacional de Desarrollo, 1989- 1994. Mexico, D.F.: Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, 1989. p.21
[21] Memorandum Para Informacion Superior (Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores, October 28, 1986).
[22]Alba, FranciscoConsejo Nacional de Población (Mexico),”Migración Internacional y Políticas Publicas”, El Estado de La Migración: Las Políticas Públicas Ante Los Retos de La Migración Mexicana a Estados Unidos, 1. ed (México, D.F: Consejo Nacional de Población, 2009), pp. 26
[23] Morris, Milton D., and Brookings Institution. Curbing Illegal Immigration: a Staff Paper. Washington, D.C: Brookings Institution, 1982.
[24] Solana, Fernando. Informe presentado por el secretario de Relaciones Exteriores al Senado de la República. México: Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, 1989. p.22
[25] Mexico, and Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores. Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores 1982-1988: reunión de autoevaluación. México: La Secretaría, 1988. p. 22
[26] Francisco Alba, “La Política Migratoria Mexicana Después de IRCA,” Estudios Demográficos y Urbanos 14, no. 1 (ene-abr 1999). P. 16
[27] “Informe Sobre Los Acontecimientos En America Del Norte.” Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, June 1985. Archivo General de la Nacion [Mexico]. P.32
[28] “Dirección General Para America Del Norte.” Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, July 1984. Archivo General de la Nacion [Mexico]. P.13
[29] “Informe Sobre Los Acontecimientos En America Del Norte.” Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, June 1985. Archivo General de la Nacion [Mexico]. P.30-32
[30] Original quote: La protección de los mexicanos que se encuentran en el extranjero es una de las tareas prioritarias del Servicio Consular Mexicano, tarea que adquiere toda su significación en los Estados Unidos por el gran numero de compatriotas que residen allá o que emigran temporalmente para buscar trabajo.” Mexico, and Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores. Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores 1982-1988: reunión de autoevaluación. México: La Secretaría, 1988. p. 21
[31] Alba, Francisco,Consejo Nacional de Población (Mexico),”Migración Internacional y Políticas Publicas”, El Estado de La Migración: Las Políticas Públicas Ante Los Retos de La Migración Mexicana a Estados Unidos, 1. ed (México, D.F: Consejo Nacional de Población, 2009), pp. 26-27
[32] Barbara Strickland, “Sintesis Del Proyecto de Ley Simpson-Rodino,” Foro Internacional 27, no. 3 (107) (March 1987). P.443-446
[33] Blanche Petrich, “Reanuda Washington La Redada de Ilegales,” Uno Mas Uno, January 7, 1986.
[34] Mexico, and Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores. Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores 1982-1988: reunión de autoevaluación. México: La Secretaría, 1988. p. 21
[35] Mexico, and Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores. Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores 1982-1988: reunión de autoevaluación. México: La Secretaría, 1988. p. 21
[36] Leticia Calderón Chelius, La Dimensión Política de La Migración Mexicana, 1. ed, Contemporánea Sociología (México, D.F: Instituto de Investigaciones Dr. José Luis Mora, 2002). P.53
[37] Mexico, and Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores. Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores 1982-1988: reunión de autoevaluación. México: La Secretaría, 1988. p. 21
[38] Blanche Petrich, “Llamo Mexico a Su Embajador En Washington,” Uno Mas Uno, January 6, 1982.
[39] Francisco Alba, P. 11-12
[40] Leticia Calderón Chelius, 14-52
[41] Solana, Fernando. Informe presentado por el secretario de Relaciones Exteriores al Senado de la República. México: Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, 1989. p.21
[42] Monica Verea C., “Posibles Alternativas Del Gobierno Mexicano Ante La Aprobacion de La Ley Simpson-Rodino,” Foro Internacional 27, no. 3 (107) (March 1987). P. 468
[43] Cornellius, Wayne. “Immigration, Mexican Development Policy, and the Future  of US-Mexican Relations.” Working Papers in US- Mexican Studies 8 (1981).
[44] Ana Maria Chavez, La Nueva Dinámica de La Migración Interna En México, 1970-1990 (Morelos, Mexico: UNAM, 1998), pp. 328
[45] Ibid., pp. 315
[46] Ibid.,, pp. 315-316
[47]objetivo era distribuir la población en el territorio nacional que respondiera al potencial de desarrollo de las distintas regiones del país tomando en consideración la migración tanto interno como de carácter internacional. Busco frenar las inercias de la hiperconcentración en las grandes zonas metropolitanas” Ana Maria Chavez, La Nueva Dinámica de La Migración Interna En México, 1970-1990 (Morelos, Mexico: UNAM, 1998), pp. 328
[48] Ibid., pp. 319-331
[49] Guadalupe Beatriz Acuna de Pena, Pp. 111
[50] “Detienen En Empresas Tejanas a Sesenta Indocumentados,” Excelsior, July 21, 1985, sec. En los Estados.
[51] “Actas de Cabildo: Monterrey y San Antonio Son Ciudades Hermanas” (Gobierno Municipal de Monterrey, August 26, 1983).