, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 159-180

Playing Cat and Mouse at the U.S.-Mexican Border

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Border control and apprehension activity represents a major element of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Does apprehending an undocumented migrant deter remigration? If it does not, does it change future migration behavior? I explore these questions by testing hypotheses about the effects of apprehension on the actual and desired length of stay in the United States and on the frequency of migration for undocumented Mexican male migrants. Results suggest that INS policy may well be backfiring. Migrants stay in the United States longer on non-apprehended trips and stay in Mexico for shorter spells between trips to compensate for the cost of a past apprehension.

The author would like to thank the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which generously provided funding (Grant 87-4-13) for this project. Members of the University of Michigan’s labor seminar provided many helpful comments. Any remaining errors are mine.