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MigrationEconomic Change, Social Challenge$
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Christian Dustmann

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198729624

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198729624.001.0001

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Uninformed Policies and Reactionary Politics

Uninformed Policies and Reactionary Politics

A Cautionary Tale from the United States

(p.118) 6 Uninformed Policies and Reactionary Politics

Douglas S. Massey

Oxford University Press

This chapter uses findings from earlier published work to illustrate how public policies enacted without any real understanding of underlying social and economic policies can be counter-productive. Specifically, immigration reforms enacted by the US Congress in the mid-1960s were enacted with the aim of eliminating racism from federal immigration law, but paid no attention to the underlying reality of a well-established, largely circular flow of legal migrants between Mexico and the United States. Lacking access to legal visas, migrants continued to enter without authorization, but this increase in illegal migration set off a chain reaction of increasingly conservative sentiment and restrictionist policies that increased, rather than decreased, the number of undocumented migrants in the United States, producing a marginalized population in peril of forming a very disadvantaged underclass. The chapter warns policymakers in other countries to avoid intervening in complex social and economic systems without properly understanding their operation.

Keywords:   undocumented migration, immigration policy, return migration, Mexico, border enforcement

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