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Why Border Enforcement Backfired

Author(s): Massey, Douglas S.; Durand, Jorge; Pren, Karen A.

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Abstract: In this article the authors undertake a systematic analysis of why border enforcement backfired as a strategy of immigration control in the United States. They argue theoretically that border enforcement emerged as a policy response to a moral panic about the perceived threat of Latino immigration to the United States propounded by self-interested bureaucrats, politicians, and pundits who sought to mobilize political and material resources for their own benefit. The end result was a self-perpetuating cycle of rising enforcement and increased apprehensions that resulted in the militarization of the border in a way that was disconnected from the actual size of the undocumented flow. Using an instrumental variable approach, the authors show how border militarization affected the behavior of unauthorized migrants and border outcomes to transform undocumented Mexican migration from a circular flow of male workers going to three states into an 11 million person population of settled families living in 50 states.
Publication Date: Mar-2016
Citation: Massey, Douglas S., Durand, Jorge, Pren, Karen A. (2016). Why Border Enforcement Backfired. American Journal of Sociology, 121 (5), 1557 - 1600. doi:10.1086/684200
DOI: doi:10.1086/684200
ISSN: 0002-9602
EISSN: 1537-5390
Pages: 1557 - 1600
Type of Material: Journal Article
Journal/Proceeding Title: American Journal of Sociology
Version: Final published version. Article is made available in OAR by the publisher's permission or policy.

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