The Untold Story of Mexican Migration
$29.95 • £21.95 • €27.00
Publication: March 2018
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
6 halftones, 5 maps, 3 graphs, 3 tables
About this Book
In the 1970s the Mexican government acted to alleviate rural unemployment by supporting the migration of able-bodied men. Millions crossed into the United States to find work that would help them survive as well as sustain their families in Mexico. They took low-level positions that few Americans wanted and sent money back to communities that depended on their support. But as U.S. authorities pursued more aggressive anti-immigrant measures, migrants found themselves caught between the economic interests of competing governments. The fruits of their labor were needed in both places, and yet neither country made them feel welcome.
Ana Raquel Minian explores this unique chapter in the history of Mexican migration. Undocumented Lives draws on private letters, songs, and oral testimony to recreate the experience of circular migration, which reshaped communities in the United States and Mexico. While migrants could earn for themselves and their families in the U.S., they needed to return to Mexico to reconnect with their homes periodically. Despite crossing the border many times, they managed to belong to communities on both sides of it. Ironically, the U.S. immigration crackdown of the mid-1980s disrupted these flows, forcing many migrants to remain north of the border permanently for fear of not being able to return to work. For them, the United States became known as the jaula de oro—the cage of gold.
Undocumented Lives tells the story of Mexicans who have been used and abused by the broader economic and political policies of Mexico and the United States.
About the Authors
Ana Raquel Minian is Assistant Professor of History and of Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford University.
“Undocumented Lives explores the double exclusion of Mexican men from their respective homes of national belonging—Mexico, by making it impossible for families to subsist without husbands’ and fathers’ migration and remittance; the United States, by exploiting undocumented laborers while forcing them to live in the shadows lest they be deported. This is a deeply humane book that focuses on the lives of migrants who endure and navigate these exclusions.”—Mae Ngai, Columbia University
“A truly impressive accomplishment that combines political and economic analysis with personal narratives of love, loss, and belonging to offer a holistic, deeply humane look at Mexican migration in the late twentieth century. If you read only one book about the roots of immigration debates today, this should be it.”—Geraldo Cadava, author of Standing on Common Ground
“Well-written and gripping, this book rigorously and imaginatively shows us how changes in immigration policy on both sides of the border dramatically affect peoples’ lives. Based on an impressive number of oral histories conducted in both Mexico and the United States, Undocumented Lives is a valuable contribution to the history of both countries and a revelation of the experience of those who can claim neither as home.”—Margaret Chowning, University of California, Berkeley
“An important book that will have an immediate impact on the history and historiography of Mexican migration to the United States in the twentieth century and beyond.”—David G. Gutiérrez, University of California, San Diego
Table of Contents
- Introduction: From Neither Here nor There
- 1. An Excess of Citizens
- 2. “A Population without a Country”
- 3. The Intimate World of Migrants
- 4. Normalizing Migration
- 5. Supporting the Hometown from Abroad
- 6. The Rights of the People
- 7. A Law to Curtail Undocumented Migration
- 8. The Cage of Gold
- Appendix A: Note on Sources
- Appendix B: Queer Migration
- Read Ana Raquel Minian’s essay in the Washington Post on the ways in which Mexico itself has served as a “wall” keeping Central American migrants from reaching the United States
- Read Minian’s Los Angeles Times essay arguing that tying DACA to border security ignores the process of “circular migration”: increased border security is why there are so many Dreamers
- Read a Vox interview with Minian on how Donald Trump’s “sh*thole” comment should be considered in relation to America’s problematic history with eugenics
- Watch Minian discuss DACA on Univision
- At the Atlantic, read Minian’s argument that a U.S.–Mexico border wall could have the unintended effect of discouraging Mexicans from leaving the U.S.
- At Univision, read about the oral histories that Minian collected while researching Undocumented Lives
- Watch a C-SPAN interview with Minian about 20th century Mexican migration to the United States