Mexico and the U.S.: Who Needs Who?

by Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP

Immigration reform discussions are often based on the premise that immigrants desperately want to come to the U.S. and will do whatever it takes to migrate. But this is, increasingly, an incomplete and even dated picture.

When it comes to Mexico, a place we know well as U.S. Ambassadors to Mexico for 11 of the last 20 years—one of us in a Republican administration and the other in a Democrat one—the incentives for its population to move north are fading. Mexico is on the rise, and only sensible immigration reform will allow the U.S. to continue to attract and retain the workers our economy needs to grow, many of which, if we’re smart about it, will come from our southern neighbor. This changing dynamic puts added pressure on the House of Representatives to act and to do so in a comprehensive way.

Immigrant workers will be increasingly critical for maintaining our global economic position as our labor force sees a growing exodus of baby boomers on their way to retirement. Demographics are not on our side. By 2030, 76 million baby boomers will have retired with only 46 million U.S.-born workers entering the labor force.

We must focus on educating and training Americans to fill jobs in sectors such as health care that will continue to grow as our population ages and that are already facing labor shortages. But until that happens, immigrants, especially in the short term, are vital for filling labor force gaps. In health care alone, immigrants, although 13 percent of the U.S. population, make up 28 percent of the in-home health care workforce.

At the same time, we need immigrant workers for sustaining the federal retirement system that so many Americans depend on. A May analysis by the Social Security Administration finds that passage of the Senate bill would mean 6.5 million more tax-paying workers over the next decade and a $300 billion windfall in net revenue to Medicare and Social Security.

Now, the role of Mexico. Approximately 30 percent of the 40 million immigrants in the U.S. today are from our southern neighbor—and these Mexican workers will be critical for our future. But Mexico is rapidly changing, putting more pressure on the U.S. to create a comprehensive, sensible migratory framework so that we can allow for a secure and demand-driven labor flow. Without reform, the rapid change in “push” factors in Mexico means that we may not have the workers we need for the future.

Consider this. First, the Mexican economy is strong. At a projected 3.1 percent annual growth rate, the Mexico is poised to yet again grow faster than the United States in 2013. The World Bank reports that 17 percent of the population joined the middle class in the last decade. Demographics also have shifted in Mexico. The average Mexican woman now has about two children—down from seven children per woman in the 1960s. A more middle-class country translates into a better educated population with less of a need to pack up and fewer people to actually move to the U.S. in search of better opportunities.

At the same time, in less than seven months, the reforms already passed under President Enrique Peña Nieto—including education, competition and labor—show the political will for addressing long-standing barriers to further development. Next up: energy reform that could unlock billions of dollars in foreign investment and ensure that North America is the global energy powerhouse.

We must also remember that Mexico is our second-largest export market, with more than $1.3 billion per day in total trade. The U.S. exports more to Mexico than to all of the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) combined.

Congress should recognize that we are talking about the present, not just the future. Today, net migration from Mexico to the United States is at zero. In fact, a 2013 Gallup poll reports that in December 2012 only 11 percent of Mexicans said they would consider emigrating from the country—the same percentage of Americans who said they would consider leaving the United States.

The debate over immigration reform is likely to become even more divisive in the months ahead. But we must not lose focus on why the U.S. needs immigrants. This includes an immigration system that responds to present-day realities and an achievable pathway to citizenship for those without documentation. Not only will this translate into a direct domestic boom but it will also allow for making sure we have the workers we need for the future. Our economy depends on it.

Ambassadors Antonio Garza and James R. Jones serve on the Americas Society/Council of the Americas’ Immigration Advisory Group. Antonio Garza served as U.S. Ambassador to Mexico under President George W. Bush from 2002-2009 and is now counsel in the Mexico City office of White & Case and Chairman of Vianovo Ventures. James R. Jones served as U.S. Ambassador to Mexico under President Bill Clinton from 1993-1997 and is now Chairman & CEO of ManattJones Global Strategies.

This article was previously published on Real Clear Politics (July 2013).

Antonio Garza also contributed to this article.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP

Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.