Indigenous Places and the Making of Undocumented Status in Mexico-U.S. Migration


Although researchers have illuminated how the uneven distribution of economic and social resources across communities falls along racial or ethnic dimensions, few have considered whether dimensions of stratification in a migrant-sending country bear on migrants’ access to economic and social resources in a migrant-receiving country. In this article, we take Mexico-United States migration flows as our focus and examine whether having origins in an indigenous place, a primary axis of stratification in Mexico, influences migrants’ documentation status when crossing the border, a primary dimension of inequality in the U.S. Merging individual-level data from the Mexican Migration Project with municipal-level data from the Mexican Census and using multilevel models, we find that migrants from indigenous municipalities in Mexico are more likely to migrate undocumented than documented to the U.S. compared with those from non-indigenous municipalities, net of the economic and social resources identified in prior work as useful for international movement. We discuss why indigenous places—marked by a set of correlated conditions of economic and social disadvantage—channel migrants into an undocumented status. This study contributes to our understanding of stratification processes in cross-border contexts and has implications for the production of inequality in the U.S.

Last updated on 07/21/2017