Policy Shocks: On the Legal Auspices of Latin American Migration to the United States

Ann Am Acad Pol Soc Sci. 2010 Jul;630(1):270-293. doi: 10.1177/0002716210368113.


In this paper, I compare the transition into legal permanent residence (LPR) of Mexicans, Dominicans, and Nicaraguans. Dominicans had the highest likelihood of obtaining residence, mostly sponsored by parents and spouses. Mexicans had the lowest LPR transition rates and presented sharp gender differentials in modes: women mostly legalized through husbands while men were sponsored through IRCA, parents. Nicaraguans stood in-between, presenting few gender differences in rates and modes of transition and a heavy dependence on asylum and special provisions such as IRCA and NACARA. I argue these patterns stem from the interplay of conditions favoring the emigration of and the specific immigration policy context faced by migrant pioneers; the influence of social networks in reproducing the legal character of flows; and differences in the actual use of kinship ties as sponsors. I discuss the implications of these trends on the observed gendered patterns of migration from Latin America.