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.
Undocumented Lives is a deep dive into the history of Mexican migration to and from the United States and how, many times, migrants can feel ni aquí, ni allá, neither here, nor there—not fully recognized by any one place.
Minian’s aching and timely book clearly lays out the political and cultural forces on both sides of the border that have placed millions of Mexicans in the golden cage that is the U.S.’ immigration policy…Minian has conducted exhaustive research, which includes copious oral-history interviews, to produce a work providing historical context and perspective for the current debate raging about immigration.
Necessary and timely…By unearthing 50-year-old narratives, Minian draws a straight line to today’s racist and acerbic anti-immigration policies in America…A valuable text to consider alongside the current fight for DACA, the border concentration camps, and the unending rhetoric dehumanizing Mexican migrants.
Minian traces today’s unauthorized migration to the years between 1965 and 1986, when the disruption of Mexican circular migration trapped unauthorized migrants on US soil. The book explores Mexican and US policies as well as media resources and intimate testimonials to show how migrants thought about home and how they were treated, as well as discussing their financial limitations, child-rearing challenges, and relationships with romantic partners and family.
Minian provides an elaborate account of Mexican immigration to the United States, particularly from the mid-1960s to the 1980s…This history provides a rare window into ‘the messy complexity of [the] lived experience’ of Mexican migrants and contributes much-needed nuance to contemporary debates on immigration.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 2018, Winner of the Betty and Alfred McClung Lee Book Award
- 2019, Winner of the David Montgomery Award
- 2019, Winner of the Theodore Saloutos Memorial Book Award
- 2019, Winner of the Frances Richardson Keller-Sierra Prize
- 2019, Winner of the Américo Paredes Book Award
- 336 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
Sorry, there was an error adding the item to your shopping bag.
Sorry, your session has expired. Please refresh your browser's tab.