What Part of "Illegal" Don't You Understand? The Social Consequences of Criminalizing Unauthorized Mexican Migrants in the United States

Daniel Martinez, Jeremy Slack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations

Abstract

In this article, we examine the social repercussions of criminally prosecuting individuals that cross into the United States without official documentation. The "criminalization of immigration law" (Coleman, 2007), federal- and state-level anti-immigrant initiatives, and an incarceration-oriented approach to dealing with unauthorized migration have redefined what it means to be undocumented in the United States, a definition with more sociological implications than ever before. Using strain theory (Agnew, 1992; Merton, 1938) and Cloward and Ohlin's (1960) concept of illegitimate means structures, we discuss the social ramifications for migrants who are exposed to a potentially unfamiliar criminal element while incarcerated for unauthorized entry. First-hand accounts of migrants' experiences were gathered from face-to-face semi-structured interviews of 210 randomly selected individuals at a migrant shelter in northern Mexico.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)535-551
Number of pages17
JournalSocial and Legal Studies
Volume22
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Criminalization
  • detention
  • immigrants
  • migrants
  • Operation Streamline
  • unauthorized
  • undocumented

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Law

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