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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Labor Migration From Mexico And Free Trade: Lessons From A Transnational Community

  • Author(s): Alacron, Rafael
  • et al.

This paper examines the relationship between regional development and labor migration to the United States in the context of NAFTA. To this end, mainly through ethnographic work, the migration experience of people from Tlacuitapa, Jalisco is analyzed to see whether or this flow can be reduced through the implementation of NAFTA.

The paper develops two principal arguments. First, the current migration process between Mexico and the Untied states is not only the result of push-pull economic factors, as is generally assumed, but also the result of well-developed social networks and the implementation of government policies in both Mexico and the United States as manifested by the formation of a number of “transnational communities,” like Tlacuitapa. The term transnational community describes rural Mexican communities that specialize in the production and reproduction of international migrant workers. This observation leads to a second and related argument: the additional job creation resulting from NAFTA would not necessarily stem the international migration flows in regions with a long tradition of migration to the United States.

Although manufacturing jobs have been created in a city near Tlacuitapa, the migration flows has not been affected in this community. Tlacuitapa is compared to other communities in the Los Altos de Jalisco region that have successfully stemmed migration flows to the United States. These cases reveal that international migration can be reduced in transnational communities by facilitating the establishment of small business and cooperatives. However, NAFT might cause an apposite effect by affecting these small-scale enterprises negatively.

The case of Tlacuitapa suggests that the creation of transnational communities is an important aspect of the integration between Mexico and the United States. Since labor mobility across national borders like international trade is part of the consolidation of a global economy, migration from Mexico should be part of the agenda in negotiations between the two countries. Since NAFTA by itself will not play a significant role in deterring emigration from traditional sending areas, labor mobility should be addressed in the mutual interests of people from both countries; otherwise NAFTA will become another pipe dream of immigration deterrence like the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.

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