Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

O'Neil analyzes developments in Latin America and U.S. relations in the region.

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Reads of the Week: New Migration Trends, and Valenzuela’s Tenure

by Shannon K. O'Neil
July 21, 2011

Undocumented Migrants travel on raft bound for Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico

Undocumented Migrants travel on raft bound for Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico (Daniel Leclair/Courtesy Reuters).

While two weeks ago Damien Cave’s great New York Times piece highlighted the positive economic factors keeping Mexicans at home, this week the Wall Street Journal adds border crossing dangers to the reasons for a downward trend in undocumented migration. This holds doubly true for Central Americans. A recent RAND study shows that while fewer Mexicans are coming to the United States, fewer are leaving as well, even with the economic downturn. Its authors suggest that this is due to the “target earner hypothesis,” which holds that migrants will not return to their home country until they have earned a prefixed level of savings. I’d add that the increasing costs and dangers of returning must also affect migrants’ calculation.

Though unlikely before the 2012 presidential election, these changing dynamics may open a space again to talk about immigration reform.  I recommend CFR’s immigration policy Task Force, published in 2009, for some serious thoughts on what U.S. national interests here comprise, and what should be done.

Lastly, Arturo Valenzuela’s tenure at the State Department has now officially ended. Steve Clemons offers his take, emphasizing the positive steps the outgoing Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemispheric Affairs took toward establishing a more consistent, less volatile U.S. policy toward Latin America. Let’s hope for continuity rather than change going forward.

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  • Posted by jan z. volens

    Less “volatile” U.S. policy towards Latin America ? Maybe a cosmetic change – because there is the “action” squad in U.S. Congress – Ros-Lehtinen, Marco Rubio, David Rivera and Connie Mack. Plus the stealthy “security partners” – U.S. 4th Fleet and U.S. Southcom! The idea of “cutting the Atlantic-divide” really was an eye opener for the South Americans… “We are not partners of the USA for its role in the world! Only South Americans are responsible for the defense of our subcontinent, and we need a dissuasive capacity against threats from outside our region” (Nelson Jobim lecturing to NATO ex-strategist Gen. Klaus Naumann at the “Adenauer Foundation” (CDU-FRG) in Rio, Nov.2010. )

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