Borders for whom? The role of NAFTA in Mexico-U.S. migration

Patricia Fernández-Kelly, Douglas S. Massey

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

140 Scopus citations


In this article, the authors first give attention to main factors that resulted in the passage of NAFTA and subsequently investigate Mexican migration to the United States during roughly the same period that the bilateral treaty has been in effect. At the center of the relationship between economic liberalization and immigration is the paradox of increasing capital mobility and attempts at controlling more tightly the movement of immigrant workers. Although immigration from Mexico has remained flat over the past ten years, the Mexican population in the United States has grown rapidly, partly as a result of the unanticipated effects of harsh immigration policies since 1986. Prior to that date, Mexicans engaged in cyclical movements, but as security measures became harsher, especially in the 9/11 period, more immigrants and their families settled in the United States hoping to avert the dangers of exit and reentry. This analysis shows the slanted function of borders that have become permeable for capital but increasingly restrictive for immigrants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)98-118
Number of pages21
JournalAnnals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


  • Immigration Reform and Control Act
  • Mexican Migration Project
  • Undocumented migrants


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