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Crossing the Border

Research from the Mexican Migration Project

Jorge Durand, Douglas S. Massey

Publication Year: 2006

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.

Published by: Russell Sage Foundation

Title page

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pp. i-iii


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p. vi-vi


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

The Chapters in this volume continue a long tradition of empirical research based on Mexican Migration Project data. They were first presented as papers at a binational conference held in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on March 15 and 16, 2002. The conference was held in conjunction with the ...

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CHAPTER 1: What We Learned from the Mexican Migration Project

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pp. 1-14

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 ...


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CHAPTER 2: Trends in Mexican Migration to the United States, 1965 to 1995

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pp. 17-44

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 ...

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CHAPTER 3: Migrants' Social Capital and Investing Remittances in Mexico

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pp. 45-62

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 ...

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CHAPTER 4: U.S. Migration, Home, Ownership and Housing Quality

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pp. 63-85

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 ...

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CHAPTER 5: The Green Card as a Matrimonial Strategy: Self-Interest in the Choice of Marital Partners

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pp. 86-108

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 ...


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CHAPTER 6: Women and Men on the Move: Undocumented Border Crossing

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pp. 111-130

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 ..

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CHAPTER 7: Wives Left Behind: The Labor Market Behavior of Women in Migrant Communities

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pp. 131-144

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 ...


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CHAPTER 8: Tijuana's Place in the Mexican Migration Stream: Destination for Internal Migrants or Stepping Stone to the United States?

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pp. 147-170

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 ...

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CHAPTER 9: Old Paradigms and New Scenario's in a Migration Tradition: U.S. Migration from Guanajuato

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pp. 171-183

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” ...

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CHAPTER 10: Social Capital and Emigration from Rural and Urban Communities

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pp. 184-200

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 ...

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CHAPTER 11: Cumulative Causation among Internal and International Mexican Migrants

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pp. 201-231

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 ...


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pp. 232-234

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CHAPTER 12: A Profile of Mexican Workers in U.S. Agriculture

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pp. 235-264

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 ...

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CHAPTER 13: Return Versus Settlement among Undocumented Mexican Migrants 1980 to 1996

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pp. 265-280

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 ...

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CHAPTER 14: The Effect of U.S. Border Enforcement on the Crossing Behavior of Mexican Migrants

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pp. 281-298

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 crack- downs starting with Operation Hold-the-Line in El Paso, Texas, in 1993. Operation Gatekeeper ...

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CHAPTER 15: U.S. Immigration Policy and the Duration of Undocumented Trips

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pp. 299-320

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 prob- ability of return ...

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CHAPTER 16: Appendix: The Mexican Migration Project

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pp. 321-336

As undocumented migration has come to account for a larger share of total immigration to developed countries, an increasing fraction of demographic growth lies outside the usual modes of statistical measurement, creating major problems for demographers seeking to fore- cast the size and composition of national populations and serious ...


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pp. 337-345

E-ISBN-13: 9781610441742
Print-ISBN-13: 9780871542892
Print-ISBN-10: 0871542897

Page Count: 356
Publication Year: 2006