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The Current State of U.S.- Mexico Relations

Current State of US-Mexico

The relationships between Mexico and the United States are more important today than they have ever been.  These relationships significantly affect political debates and election outcomes in both countries, and are further complicated by the dynamics of Covid 19 which has caused the partial closure of the border between the two countries and the resulting negative effect on the Mexican economy.

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at George Mason University and AARP hosted an OLLI Summer Class  on June 24 recently to help the public understand the issues facing the relationships between the United States and Mexico.  The program was presented by Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera who is an associate professor in the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University.  She was born and raised in Mexico.  Her background is in Mexico-US relations, organized crime, immigration, border security, social movements and human trafficking. Her newest book is titled Los Zetas Inc.: Criminal Corporations, Energy, and Civil War in Mexico (University of Texas Press, 2017).

Correa-Cabrera identified trade, security and immigration as the three most important issues facing the relationships between the United States and Mexico.  Security and immigration are closely tied together because of the concern over terrorist activities from other countries using the border to penetrate the United States.  Immigration is also closely tied to the war on drugs.  An estimated 200,000 people have been killed in Mexico due to the war on drugs prompting action against the transnational criminal organizations, popularly labeled as cartels, on both sides of the border.  Mexico has used its military to combat the criminal organizations as problems have increased since the 1980’s.  The United States has become increasingly involved since 2001 as border security has grown in importance.  Despite these efforts, policies have generally failed and more drugs are available in the United States today than ever.  Correa-Cabrera reported that the “kingpin strategy” used by the United States which focuses on key leaders in the cartels, has only led to a reorganization of criminal activities and corruption in Mexico.

After the 2016 election in the United States, the “border wall” became an important issue for security and immigration.  Mexico was threatened by the Trump administration with tariffs on its products unless the flow of people from Central America to the United States was further controlled.  However, Correa-Cabrera said that, because of the lack of resources, Mexico is not able to provide the support needed for control of the people trying to enter the United States but temporarily staying in Mexico. The presence of large numbers of transient immigrants has resulted in increased crime in the border communities.  She stressed that the solution to the border problem needs to be solved at its origin and will require collaboration with the Biden administration.

The presence of undocumented Mexican immigrants living in the United States continues to be a problem, she said, noting that the best data available is that these number 11 million to 12 million people.  This can only be solved by comprehensive United States immigration reform policy that includes a path to citizenship for the undocumented residents, she said.  She predicted this step will be difficult to achieve, since a new policy could affect the outcome of elections in the United States.

Correa-Cabrera emphasized that Mexico, like the United States, has a diverse population representing different opinions.  Inequality between the rich and the poor is significant. The president of Mexico has announced he wants the poor to come first.  However, Mexico currently has a slow growth rate of 2 to 3 percent.  Therefore, a program of national development is needed to achieve sufficient economic growth for Mexico.  The current Covid 19 pandemic, with negative press coverage and periodic border closures, has made economic progress difficult.  The changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) likewise pose a challenge to Mexico and further agreement with the United States is necessary if a national development program is to be achieved in Mexico.

Changes in the relationships between the United states and Mexico can only come through bilateral cooperation and agreements between the governments, Correa-Cabrera said.  These are difficult to achieve because of diverse opinions in both countries on how to proceed.  Reform will be a long-term process but necessary for the trade, immigration and security of both countries.

You can watch a recording of the lecture below.

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