The author discusses how changes in immigration laws and policies may affect the Central American migrant flow traveling through and/or to Mexico. The article specifically examines regularization programmes in Mexico before and after the 2011 Migration Law that allow undocumented immigrants to apply for residency under certain conditions. The author coins the term “precarious legality” to discuss the temporary legality immigrants experience when their visas expire and/or fail to meet requirements. Prior to the 2011 Migration Law, Central American immigrants felt that applying for residency papers was easier, but their status was temporary and conditional, which led them to face exploitation and oppression. With the help of civil society activists, Mexico passed the 2011 Migration Law that would allow immigrants to apply for residency for various reasons. However, immigrants faced even greater obstacles during the application process, such as high costs and stringent requirements, that discouraged them from applying. Thus, Central Americans, before and after the 2011 Migration Law, face conditional legality that restricts them from fully integrating into Mexican society, even after obtaining residency papers.
The author conducts sixty-six interviews with Central American immigrants as well as thirty-four representatives of civil society organizations to understand the obstacles they face throughout the application process. The interviews provide insight into the harsh realities’ Central American immigrants face and how civil society activists have continued to pressure the Mexican government for immigration reform that recognizes the human rights of immigrants.
The article is useful to contextualize the struggle states face when attempting to regulate migration as well as recognizing the rights of migrants as humans. In the case of Mexico, the Central American migrant flow pressures the state to create humanitarian efforts that protect their rights but also generates a need to intensify border security.