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


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.

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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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Correspondence to Victoria D. Ojeda.

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Kremer, P., Pinedo, M., Ferraiolo, N. et al. Tattoo Removal as a Resettlement Service to Reduce Incarceration Among Mexican Migrants. J Immigrant Minority Health 22, 110–119 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10903-019-00870-0

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  • Tattoo removal
  • Incarceration
  • Deported migrants
  • Mexico
  • Gang tattoos