Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 110–119 | Cite as

Tattoo Removal as a Resettlement Service to Reduce Incarceration Among Mexican Migrants

  • Pedro Kremer
  • Miguel Pinedo
  • Natalie Ferraiolo
  • Adriana Carolina Vargas-Ojeda
  • Jose Luis Burgos
  • Victoria D. OjedaEmail author
Original Paper


In Mexico, tattooed migrants face discrimination and are at high-risk of incarceration, thus, we assessed whether receiving laser tattoo removal affected the likelihood of incarceration. In 2015–2016, 89 adults ages ≥ 18 years with visible tattoos were recruited at a free-clinic to receive laser tattoo removal or assigned to the wait-list; all completed baseline and 6-month questionnaires. Overall, 97.8% of participants ever migrated to the USA. In multivariate analyses restricted to migrants (n = 87), those receiving laser tattoo removal [Adjusted Odds Ratio (AOR) 0.27, 95% CI 0.07–0.89] and possessing a Mexican Voting card (AOR 0.14; 95% CI 0.03–0.58) were significantly less likely than wait-list participants to be incarcerated at 6-months. Previously incarcerated participants were significantly more likely to be incarcerated at follow-up. Tattoo removal may reduce incarceration among Mexican migrants. Future studies can assess other health and social benefits of tattoo removal for migrants/deportees returning to Mexico.


Tattoo removal Incarceration Deported migrants Mexico Gang tattoos 



We acknowledge funding from the following sources: the UC GloCal Fellowship and the AIDS International Training Research Program funded by the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health under Award Numbers R25TW009343 and D43TW008633 (Ojeda, Pinedo, Ferraiolo), and the National Institute on Mental Health Grant #K01MH095680 (Burgos). Kremer was supported by a Research Fellowship from the UCSD Office of Graduate Studies and Ojeda was supported by a Faculty Fellowship by the UCSD Center for US-Mexican Studies.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of California, San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Public HealthLa JollaUSA
  2. 2.The University of Texas at Austin, College of EducationAustinUSA
  3. 3.Scripps Mercy Family Medicine ResidencyChula VistaUSA
  4. 4.Facultad de Medicina y PsicologíaUniversidad Autónoma de Baja CaliforniaTijuanaMexico
  5. 5.Division of Behavioral Medicine, Department of Family Medicine & Public HealthUniversity of California, San Diego School of MedicineLa JollaUSA
  6. 6.Division of Behavioral Medicine, Department of Family Medicine & Public Health and Dept. of MedicineUniversity of California San Diego School of MedicineLa JollaUSA

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