Diaspora Bureaucracy? Formalizing emigrant engagement and the evolution of Mexico’s 3x1 Program

Authors: Aaron Malone*, University of Colorado
Topics: Migration, Development, Immigration/Transnationalism
Keywords: migration, development, diaspora, transnationalism, policy mobilities
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Napoleon A1, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Recent decades have seen rapid growth of diaspora strategies – efforts by migrant-sending countries to engage their emigrants abroad, under the assumption they can contribute toward development goals. There has also been a formalization of diaspora engagement efforts and the emergence of new agencies and programs. I examine how the formalization and bureaucratization of diaspora-state engagement has influenced relations between migrants, migrant organizations, sending communities, and sending-area governments. I focus on the example of Mexico’s 3x1 Program, a matching grant scheme through which the Mexican government partners with migrant organizations to build infrastructure in migrants’ hometowns. The 3x1 Program’s institutionalization has created gaps between policy and practice, yielding numerous unintended consequences. I show how these issues emerged across multiple levels. Most fundamentally, the basic assumptions built into the policy model romanticize migrant organizations and create unrealistic expectations for their involvement. Secondly, the mechanics of program operations also create mismatches between mandated processes and practical limitations the stakeholder groups face. These problems are known to officials, yet change to the program has been minimal over its fifteen years of operation. The contradictions and issues in the functioning of the 3x1 Program provide insights into Mexico’s relationship to its diaspora. Though presented as a community development program, the practical goals seem to center on a ceremonial embrace of migrants and a strategic strengthening of hometown-focused migrant organizations abroad, while the actual development projects are mostly left to hometown mayors and business-as-usual processes.

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