Handbook of the International Political Economy of Migration
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Handbook of the International Political Economy of Migration

Edited by Leila Simona Talani and Simon McMahon

This Handbook discusses theoretical approaches to migration studies in general, as well as confronting various issues in international migration from a distinctive international political economy perspective. It examines migration as part of a global political economy whilst addressing the theoretical debate relating to the capacity of the state to control international migration and the so called ‘policy gap’ or ‘gap hypothesis’ between migration policies and their outcomes.
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Chapter 16: Migration policies, migration and regional integration in North America

Michael Samers


The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has ensured that the economic development of Canada, Mexico and the US are inextricably linked, and that migration policies figure prominently within regional integration. Yet, how do we understand the development of migration policies in the context of regional integration? Existing empirical evidence on this matter seems to defy some univocal explanation, and theoretical propositions that directly tackle such questions are few and far between. The purpose of this chapter, then, is to ultimately shed some theoretical light on what amounts to particularly complex practices and relationships. In this chapter, I use NAFTA as the manifestation of ‘regional integration’ since its inception in 1994. Now, some 20 years later, one might delineate three broad phases of regional integration and migration policies: the first from 1994 to 2001; the second from 2001 to 2007; and the third from 2008 to 2014. While such a temporalization may obscure complex processes (especially of different types of migration) and may risk a certain US-centrism by focusing overly on the US’s southern border practices and undocumented migration, these phases, I maintain, correspond to fairly sharp changes either in official discourses or in practices with respect to migration policies between the three countries. In the first phase, one sees considerable dialogue between Mexico, Canada and the US with respect to the liberalization of migration. This phase however must be distinguished by its discourses of cooperation, and not necessarily its practices.

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