“Them” or “Us”? Assessing Responsibility for Undocumented Migration from Mexico (Working Paper #46)

Fred Krissman, Center for Comparative Immigration Studies

Abstract: Empirical studies, theoretical models, and public policies concerning undocumented migration have placed too much emphasis on the “supply-side”. This approach – simultaneously self-serving and self-defeating – emphasizes socioeconomic conditions within Third World countries and immigration enforcement by advanced industrialized nations. Conducting fieldwork in both rural Mexico and the United States, I found that the personnel practices and recruitment activities within three of America’s billion dollar crop industries create and perpetuate unauthorized migrant flows. My study of these rural labor markets contradicts several critical supply-side assumptions, especially pertaining to the origins and composition of international migrant networks. Supply-siders view these networks as systems of mutual aid amongst new immigrants. I found that the networks are also used by employers to maintain access to sources of low cost labor. I conclude that the involvement of an increasing number of US corporations in the development of migrant networks from Mexico shifts responsibility for undocumented migration from “them” to us”.

Working Paper #46»