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Working Paper 187


This paper examines how U.S. migration management techniques affect the flow of undocumented migrants from Mexico and Mexican migrants’ degree of socio-economic reorientation. The findings support the hypothesis that stricter U.S. border enforcement increases migrants’ detachment from their place of origin, and that this in turn leads to a net increase in the volume of illegal Mexican migration. Estimates suggest that the increase in border enforcement in the 1990s induced between 245,000 and 360,000 Mexicans per year to migrate illegally. The results also suggest that narrowing the U.S. – Mexican wage gap would reduce both the extent of illegal Mexican migration and the degree of migrants’ detachment from their place of origin. In addition, the results indicate that guest-worker programs, which facilitate continuing attachment to the migrant’s place of origin, might be a desirable option in the short-term.


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