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Panel: U.S. can learn from Canada-Mexico cooperation on immigration

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As they try to overhaul the immigration system, U.S. lawmakers should learn from Canada's cooperation with Mexico on immigration matters, said panelists at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on Tuesday.

For its seasonal agricultural worker program, Canada has "basically singled out married men, which ups the likelihood that they're going to return," said Lindsay Lowell, director of policy studies at Georgetown University's Institute for the Study of International Migration. "They've also got the Mexican government involved so if you don't return, then you don't qualify to re-enter Canada to work again."

"I don't see the U.S. putting those kinds of practices into place," he added.

Lowell suggested that poor enforcement of the U.S. temporary worker program has made politicians less willing to expand it to meet the needs of agricultural employers. "The intent of a temporary work program is people return, and getting that to happen is such a real challenge," he said.

Gustavo Mohar, a former subsecretary in Mexico's Interior Ministry, also touted Canada's program for seasonal agricultural workers. "They joke that it's because of the climate, but nevertheless, they don't stay in Canada" beyond their visas, and they still establish long-term relationships with employers, Mohar said.

Mohar said that more bilateral cooperation on immigration between the United States and Mexico could also help Mexico. Mohar called on the United States to support Mexico's efforts to reintegrate citizens who had spent many years in the United States before being deported.

"Those are the ones that are facing a very crucial dilemma for their lives, because they don't have any roots anymore in Mexico," he said. Their jobs, families and social networks may be in the United States, and they're often culturally integrated into U.S. society, Mohar said.

Mexico also struggles with citizens who were deported from the United States because they committed crimes. In parts of Mexico, Mohar said, "there is an environment of crime and insecurity in which they can easily be co-opted by the local gangs or organized crime to become members of them."

For more:
- go to the Feb. 19 CSIS event webpage (webcast available)

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