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Mexico should take a more active stance on US immigration reform

The Mexican government cannot afford the luxury of ignoring what is happening on immigration reform in the big and powerful North. And yet, it has taken a passive attitude. There are good historical reasons for this, but not a good one today.

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Sens. John McCain (R) (left) and Chuck Schumer (D) walk away after speaking to reporters about their meeting with President Obama on a bipartisan immigration reform bill April 16. Oped contributor Luis Rubio writes: Mexico 'should be willing to commit to a broad migratory arrangement whereby it would control the flows of future potential migrants moving from or through Mexico’s territory.'

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

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The Mexican government cannot afford the luxury of ignoring what is happening on immigration reform in the big and powerful North. And yet, it has taken a passive attitude. There are good historical reasons for this, but not a good one today.

Within the Mexican government as well as in Mexican society at large there are two clearly differentiated positions vis-à-vis the immigration debate in the United States. Some people consider the migratory theme an internal matter of the US and some consider it a matter of national interest for Mexico. The former would prefer to put on blinders; the latter would embark upon a crusade. Each has relevant arguments to support their claim.

Those who would rather stay aloof believe that immigration is a domestic issue because it involves what is most essential to any nation: the composition of its society. A sovereign government has the authority to decide on the legal treatment of people that may have violated its laws at the very instant of entering the country or when overstaying the time permitted on an entry stamp. Those taking this position do not want to tell the US what to do because they don’t want the US to tell Mexico what it should do on this or other hot topics.

Then there are those who see the other side of the coin. More than 10 percent of the country’s population lives outside of Mexico, the vast majority of them (97 percent) in the US. This constituency is directly linked with a large part of the population (siblings, parents, children) back in Mexico. In some Mexican states, those connections represent more than half of the total number of its inhabitants. The government cannot ignore the obvious. Whatever decision the US ends up making on immigration, Mexico and Mexicans will be greatly affected. Hence, as much as the government might wish to lie low, this debate concerns vital matters that cannot be skirted.

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