The International Context of Immigration Reform: US, Mexico and Beyond

A research and policy analysis project supported by a grant from the MacArthur Foundation

Director: Rey Koslowski email: rkoslowski at
Assistant Director: Laura Gonzalez-Murphy
email: gonmurph at

This project examines the politics of changing immigration policies and the implementation of reforms in the US and Mexico from an explicitly comparative and international perspective. The project examines the role that other countries’ examples may play in political and policymaking processes as well as the interaction effects of reform movements in one country on the other. The research will focuses on a side-by-side analysis of immigration reform in the US and Mexico and examines the ways in which Mexican immigration policies may have influenced US immigration reform debates and the ways in which recent Mexican immigration reform efforts have been motivated by the politics of immigration reform in the US. The project will examine how Mexican immigration policies, law enforcement and border controls shape the flows of non-Mexican illegal aliens into the US. The project will also consider comparisons made to other countries in the political and policy processes of the US and Mexico, respectively. Similarly, the project will examine international factors, such as global competition for desired migrants (e.g. foreign students, highly-skilled workers, investors and rich retirees), constraints on immigration policymaking due to international treaties and norms, and/or any opportunities in international relations presented to policymakers (e.g. assuming leadership roles among states on the issue of migration). Finally, the project will examine the implementation of any policy changes in both the US and Mexico, with an emphasis on the modernization of public administration processes using information technologies. Particular attention will also be paid to the ways policy implementation may be shaped by the international environment, including international cooperation, sharing of best practices, data sharing and public administration assistance. By engendering greater sensitivity to the political use of depictions of other countries policies and fostering accuracy in the depictions of each other’s policies, the research intends to help policymakers in both the US and Mexico improve immigration policymaking. Comparative analysis of immigration policy implementation and the requirements of implementation of immigration reform proposals will facilitate formulation of reform proposals that have a greater chance of being effective once enacted and offer opportunities for the sharing of best practices.

The project involves several workshops:

“Mexican Immigration Reform in International Perspective” June 9-10, 2011, Mexican Senate, Mexico City.

“US Immigration Reform in International Perspective” October 31, 2011, Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington, DC.

“Immigration to the US and Mexico” German Marshal Fund, Nov. 1, 2011

“Legislating Immigration Reform April 2, 2013, Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington, DC.


Books, Articles, Paper Presentations and Resources:

Laura V. González-Murphy and Rey Koslowski, "Understanding Mexico's Changing Immigration Laws" (Mexico Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, March 2011) (Spanish version)

Rey Koslowski, “US Immigration Reform: Plenty of Ideas; Little Action,” presented at: U.S. Immigration Reform, With Special Reference to New York City, The Center for Migration Studies (CMS) in cooperation with The Levin Institute, SUNY, March 3, 2011. (pdf available here)

Rey Koslowski, explains the challenges of reforming immigration policy at the federal level in "Why New York Still Welcomes Immigrants" Wall Street Journal, July 28, 2012

Laura V. Gonzalez-Murphy, Protecting Immigrant Rights in Mexico: Understanding the State Civil Society Nexus Protecting Immigrant Rights in Mexico: Understanding the State-Civil Society Nexus (Routledge, March 2013).

Mexico's new migration law: Migratory Act May 25, 2011