Undocumented migration from Latin America in an era of rising U.S. enforcement

Douglas S. Massey, Fernando Riosmena

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


Available data have consistently pointed up the failure of U.S. policies to reduce undocumented migration from Latin America. To shed light on the reasons for this failure, we estimated a series of dynamic models of undocumented entry into and exit from the United States. Our estimates suggest that undocumented migration is grounded more in mechanisms posited by social capital theory and the new economics of labor migration rather than neoclassical economics. As a result, U.S. efforts to increase the costs of undocumented entry and reduce the benefits of undocumented labor have proven unsuccessful given the widespread access of Latin Americans to migrant networks. The main effect of U.S. enforcement efforts has been to reduce the circularity of Latin American migration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)294-321
Number of pages28
JournalAnnals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


  • International migration
  • Latin America
  • Undocumented migration


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