What Part of 'Illegal' Don't You Understand? The Social Consequences of Criminalizing Unauthorized Mexican Migrants in the United States
Social & Legal Studies 22(4): 535–551 (2013)
17 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 2015 Last revised: 6 Aug 2015
Date Written: 2013
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.
Keywords: criminalization, crimmigration, unauthorized migration, illegality, deportability
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