Crossing the Border

Crossing the Border: Research from the Mexican Migration Project

Jorge Durand
Douglas S. Massey
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 356
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    Crossing the Border
    Book Description:

    Discussion of Mexican migration to the United States is often infused with ideological rhetoric, untested theories, and few facts. In Crossing the Border, editors Jorge Durand and Douglas Massey bring the clarity of scientific analysis to this hotly contested but under-researched topic. Leading immigration scholars use data from the Mexican Migration Project—the largest, most comprehensive, and reliable source of data on Mexican immigrants currently available—to answer such important questions as: Who are the people that migrate to the United States from Mexico? Why do they come? How effective is U.S. migration policy in meeting its objectives? Crossing the Border dispels two primary myths about Mexican migration: First, that those who come to the United States are predominantly impoverished and intend to settle here permanently, and second, that the only way to keep them out is with stricter border enforcement. Nadia Flores, Rubén Hernández-León, and Douglas Massey show that Mexican migrants are generally not destitute but in fact cross the border because the higher comparative wages in the United States help them to finance homes back in Mexico, where limited credit opportunities makes it difficult for them to purchase housing. William Kandel’s chapter on immigrant agricultural workers debunks the myth that these laborers are part of a shadowy, underground population that sponges off of social services. In contrast, he finds that most Mexican agricultural workers in the United States are paid by check and not under the table. These workers pay their fair share in U.S. taxes and—despite high rates of eligibility—they rarely utilize welfare programs. Research from the project also indicates that heightened border surveillance is an ineffective strategy to reduce the immigrant population. Pia Orrenius demonstrates that strict barriers at popular border crossings have not kept migrants from entering the United States, but rather have prompted them to seek out other crossing points. Belinda Reyes uses statistical models and qualitative interviews to show that the militarization of the Mexican border has actually kept immigrants who want to return to Mexico from doing so by making them fear that if they leave they will not be able to get back into the United States. By replacing anecdotal and speculative evidence with concrete data, Crossing the Border paints a picture of Mexican immigration to the United States that defies the common knowledge. It portrays a group of committed workers, doing what they can to realize the dream of home ownership in the absence of financing opportunities, and a broken immigration system that tries to keep migrants out of this country, but instead has kept them from leaving.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-173-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Chapter 1 What We Learned from the Mexican Migration Project
    (pp. 1-14)
    Jorge Durand and Douglas S. Massey

    A salient characteristic of the current debate on U.S. immigration policy is the high ratio of hot air to data. With respect to Mexico-U.S. migration, in particular, political entrepreneurs, ideologues of all stripes, special interests, and many a rank opportunist employ the border as a stage on which to project their hopes, fears, and fantasies about the nation (Andreas 2000; Chavez 2001). With the border as a dramatic prop, immigrants become symbols in a battle of images. For some they symbolize the American Dream; for others, the loss of control in a global economy. Some see them as desperate people...

    • Chapter 2 Trends in Mexican Migration to the United States, 1965 to 1995
      (pp. 17-44)
      Marcela Cerrutti and Douglas S. Massey

      The modern era of Mexico-U.S. migration began with the end of the Bracero Program in 1964. Although this program was enacted in 1942 as a temporary measure to relieve wartime labor shortages, at the behest of agricultural growers in California and Texas it was successively reauthorized and expanded in the years after 1945. The size of the program was dramatically increased in the late 1950s after a paramilitary crackdown on undocumented migration (Operation Wetback) led to labor disruptions that angered agricultural interests and led to bureaucratic backpedaling (Calavita 1992). Before Operation Wetback, no more than two hundred thousand visas were...

    • Chapter 3 Migrants’ Social Capital and Investing Remittances in Mexico
      (pp. 45-62)
      Margarita Mooney

      Studying what conditions lead migrants to invest their remittances is of great practical importance, given the enormous sums of money migrants send to their countries of origin, estimated at $75 billion worldwide in 1995 (Taylor et al. 1996). In 1999 migrants sent $6.8 billion in remittances to Mexico alone. This sum exceeds the value of all Mexican agricultural exports, almost equals the country’s income from tourism, is more than two-thirds the value of oil exports, and represents more than half the foreign direct investment in Mexico (Multilateral Investment Fund 2001). How migrants and their families spend this money has practical...

    • Chapter 4 U.S. Migration, Home Ownership, and Housing Quality
      (pp. 63-85)
      Emilio A. Parrado

      Owning a home is highly valued for its connection to personal development, family formation, and economic independence. In Mexico, unfortunately, high interest rates and a lack of access to credit have prevented home acquisition by families of modest means (Centro de Información para el Desarrollo 1991). The economic effects of these constraints are long lasting, as owning a home is the primary means by which families build long-term assets, protect against economic instability, and accumulate financial worth. Through its effect on inheritance and family support, home ownership also influences the intergenerational transmission of wealth. The acquisition of a home thus...

    • Chapter 5 The Green Card as a Matrimonial Strategy: Self-Interest in the Choice of Marital Partners
      (pp. 86-108)
      Enrique Martínez Curiel

      According to Pierre Bourdieu (1980, 250), “Marriage strategies always attempt . . . to ensure a ‘good marriage’ and not just a marriage; that is, to maximize the economic and symbolic benefits associated with the establishment of a new relationship.” In this chapter I argue that undocumented migrants from the city of Ameca, Jalisco, go to the United States to establish marital relationships with U.S. citizens as part of a well-defined matrimonial strategy based on self-interest and that the pursuit of this deliberate social strategy has become more common in recent years. This strategy is a fundamental part of individual...

    • Chapter 6 Women and Men on the Move: Undocumented Border Crossing
      (pp. 111-130)
      Katharine M. Donato and Evelyn Patterson

      Mexico is well known as a nation that has long sustained high levels of out-migration to the United States. Mexican men, in particular, have migrated for more than a hundred years, especially from traditional sending areas in the western central part of the country (Durand 1998). During the past two decades, women have become migrants in increasing numbers (Donato 1993). Douglas Massey, Jorge Durand, and Nolan Malone (2002) describe the “feminization of migration” as one of the unintended consequences of heightened border enforcement in the late twentieth century and one of the hallmarks of the “new era” of Mexican migration...

    • Chapter 7 Wives Left Behind: The Labor Market Behavior of Women in Migrant Communities
      (pp. 131-144)
      María Aysa and Douglas S. Massey

      Migration from developing to developed countries has been widely studied over the past two decades. Much of this research has focused on the causes and consequences of Latin American migration to the United States. Although studies have described the process by which migrants and their partners integrate within U.S. labor markets (see Cerrutti and Massey 2001; Dinerman 1978; Gurak and Kritz 1996; Ortiz 1996), studies of the labor market behavior of family members left behind, particularly women, remains limited (Fernández 1997; Massey et al. 1987; Pessar 1982).

      Whatever the effects of male migration, women’s labor force participation is obviously influenced...

    • Chapter 8 Tijuana’s Place in the Mexican Migration Stream: Destination for Internal Migrants or Stepping Stone to the United States?
      (pp. 147-170)
      Elizabeth Fussell

      Over the past century the Mexico-U.S. border region, and Tijuana in particular, has had stronger economic and social ties to the United States than to central Mexico (Lorey 1999). A look at Tijuana’s population history helps explain why. Tijuana’s population growth during the twentieth century came mainly from internal migration within Mexico and return migration from the United States (Bustamante 1990; Zenteno 1995). In the early part of this century Tijuana was a small town, cut off from the rest of Mexico and accessible primarily by way of San Diego, California. The Mexican population living there was mainly employed in...

    • Chapter 9 Old Paradigms and New Scenarios in a Migratory Tradition: U.S. Migration from Guanajuato
      (pp. 171-183)
      Patricia Arias

      Fifteen years ago, Jorge Durand (1987) noted that migration to the United States was especially widespread in the state of Guanajuato. He reviewed the small number of reliable studies then available to explicate the long-standing and deeply rooted history of migration to “el otro lado” (the other side) from this state. These studies showed that Guanajuato generally had the highest rate of out-migration, surpassing even that prevailing in other west-central states such as Jalisco and Michoacán. High rates of U.S. migration have persisted in Guanajuato through the twentieth century. During the 1920s, for example, migrants from Guanajuato stood out both...

    • Chapter 10 Social Capital and Emigration from Rural and Urban Communities
      (pp. 184-200)
      Nadia Y. Flores, Rubén Hernández-León and Douglas S. Massey

      Throughout its long history, Mexican migration to the United States has been predominantly rural in origin. Little attention has been paid to emigrants from urban areas and to differences they might exhibit compared with their rural counterparts. In response to the continued urbanization of Mexico, researchers have come to pay more attention to emigration originating in cities and, more particularly, metropolitan areas (Durand, Massey, and Parrado 1999). Recent studies have documented the changing proportion of urbanites among migrants to the United States (Cornelius 1992; Durand, Massey, and Zenteno 2001; Lozano-Ascencio 2000; Marcelli and Cornelius 2001), the causes of emigration from...

    • Chapter 11 Cumulative Causation Among Internal and International Mexican Migrants
      (pp. 201-232)
      Estela Rivero-Fuentes

      Social networks and the cumulative causation of migration have received considerable attention in the study of the migration between Mexico and the United States (Massey 1990; Massey and Espinosa 1997; Massey and García-España 1987; Massey, Goldring, and Durand 1994; Massey and Zenteno 1999). According to recent literature, migration is perpetuated by contact between past migrants and persons who have not yet migrated as well as by changes brought to the community by prior migration. Nevertheless, studies of cumulative causation have generally ignored migration within Mexico, despite the fact that many areas of high international migration are also areas of high...

    • Chapter 12 A Profile of Mexican Workers in U.S. Agriculture
      (pp. 235-264)
      William A. Kandel

      Recent changes in the demographic composition of the farm labor force have revealed gaps in our understanding of migration, employment, and settlement patterns among workers in U.S. agriculture. Research on agricultural labor currently relies on data from nationally based surveys that are administered either to households or to agricultural establishments. The former surveys gather individual-level demographic and labor force data, while the latter provide timely estimates of the total number employed in specific agricultural sectors. Because both types of surveys were established by government agencies in response to official mandates, however, the information they collect is oriented toward specific policy...

    • Chapter 13 Return Versus Settlement Among Undocumented Mexican Migrants, 1980 to 1996
      (pp. 265-280)
      Fernando Riosmena

      Douglas massey, Jorge Durand, and Nolan Malone (2002) have depicted the social and economic process of Mexican-U.S. migration as a machine that was working properly until U.S. governmental actions upset its internal mechanisms. The massive legalization of undocumented migrants and the criminalization of unauthorized hiring by the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), together with intensification of border enforcement in 1993 and the enactment of new penalties for immigration violations in 1996, were intended to reduce the stock of undocumented migrants in the United States while limiting their inflow. Rather than achieving these aims, however, U.S. policies appear to...

    • Chapter 14 The Effect of U.S. Border Enforcement on the Crossing Behavior of Mexican Migrants
      (pp. 281-298)
      Pia M. Orrenius

      Hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants cross the Mexico-U.S. border each year. Over the past decade, to stem the inflow of migrants, the U.S. Border Patrol launched a series of site-specific crackdowns starting with Operation Hold-the-Line in El Paso, Texas, in 1993. Operation Gatekeeper followed in San Diego in 1994, and then Operation Rio Grande in South Texas in 1997 and Safeguard in Tucson in 1999.¹ A stated objective of these Border Patrol offensives was to force migrants into rural terrain where they are more readily apprehended. As part of this effort, the number of Border Patrol officers nearly doubled...

    • Chapter 15 U.S. Immigration Policy and the Duration of Undocumented Trips
      (pp. 299-320)
      Belinda I. Reyes

      Mexican migration has long been characterized by its cyclical nature (Massey et al. 1987). Historically, most Mexican immigrants enter the United States to work temporarily and then return to Mexico within a few years or months (Calavita 1992). However, it is well known that the probability of return migration declines as migratory experience accumulates across trips (Massey et al. 1987), and in recent years trip duration may have changed as more and more immigrants built up significant amounts of experience and social ties north of the border (Massey 1990).

      Also at play is U.S. immigration policy. The legalization of over...

    • Chapter 16 Appendix: The Mexican Migration Project
      (pp. 321-336)
      Jorge Durand and Douglas S. Massey
  10. Index
    (pp. 337-346)