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Transitions in migratory patterns

In the context of the privatizing policies that characterized the restructuring of both rural Mexico and the sustained growth of a transnational labor force, the households of migrant workers reconfigured themselves, accentuating the importance of kinship and of gender dispositions that ensured the reproduction of communities and households thr ough translocalized practices and cultural and economic policies. “Transnational maternities,” “long-distance conjugality,” and “check parents” (D’Aubeterre, 2000; Hondagneu-Sotelo, 2011; Hondagneu-Sotelo & Avila, 2003; Mummert, 1999)—among other terms coined in the 1990s and in the last decade to allude to these arrangements—express that, as social arrangements relocate due to the displacements of workers to the United States, the binomial domestic group-household, as a spatial field of intimate cohabitation and daily reproduction, becomes disjointed as well. It is assumed, however, that these are temporary disjunctions, after which everything will return to normal. In these scenarios, more or less temporary arrangements abound to mitigate the instability and uncertainty. Thus, in a few years, reunification and dispersion episodes can occur on both sides of the border. These groups experience many tensions, and marital separations detonate abrupt turns triggered by the distance in the lives of families.

Despite the efforts of national governments to regulate these flows, for example, by granting temporary worker visas, undocumented labor migration has not been eliminated. Nor has migration for the purpose of family reunification. Thus, paradoxically, the increased border surveillance and the risks andcosts of border crossing resulted in longer migratory cycles that fostered early processes of conjugal and intergenerational reunification, as well as the formation of first and second unions between young people that spend long periods of time away from their communities of origin and procreate their firstborns in the neighboring country.

The statistics about the composition of Mexican workers’ households in the United States allow us to infer the coexistence of these two mobility patterns in the past three decades, during which greater barriers were established to contain the undocumented flows from all over Mexico. The increase of binational domestic formations stands out. According to data from the Pew Hispanic Center, in 2005 there were 1.8 million undocumented children living in the United States, representing 16 percent of the 1.1 million Mexican migrants without legal residence or US citizenship. Furthermore, it was estimated that 3.1 million children who were United States citizens by birth lived in households in which at least one of the parents did not have legal residence (Passel, 2006). To illustrate these transitions, in 1990, 65 percent of Mexican migrants residing in North Carolina were unaccompanied adult men whose age ranged between 18 and 65 years. After a decade, only 42 percent had the same profile. In contrast, in six states from the South and Southeast, including North Carolina, the percentage of young adults and children of Latino origin grew from 2.5 percent in 1980 to 8 percent of the population in 2005 (Minchin, 2012, p. 4). This allows us to infer the existence of transitions towards settlement migration in this so-called “last frontier of Mexican migration” (Furuseth & Smith, 2016).

It is worth analyzing these transformations in the context of the global division of labor focusing on the configuration of a highly stratified transnational reproduction system. Colen (1995, p. 78) argues that stratified reproduction implies a set of physical and social reproduction tasks carried out differentially according to inequalities based on hierarchies of class, race, ethnicity, gender and migratory status. For the cases we analyze, this implies understanding the specific historical and cultural contexts of these hierarchies in both the societies of origin and destination. The physical, mental and emotional reproductive work of raising, taking care of and socializing one’s own children and those of others in exchange for the low pay received from other Mexican immigrants or from families in the United States to support households and people (from childhood to old age) is experienced in very different ways, valued and rewarded according to inequalities in the access to social resources. Stratified reproduction, particularly with the commodification of reproductive and care work, reproduces the stratification itself, intensifying the inequalities on which it is based. Many women migrate, Colen argues (1995), in search of work opportunities to improve their life standards and secure education for their children.

Expelled, just like the males, by dispossession processes that in their countries of origin increases the supernumerary population in rural and urban areas, women migrate to support themselves and their families, both in the destination and in their place of origin and, increasingly, to promote the reunification of relatives and closely related people. The notion of stratified

Accelerated migration to Nuevo New South 67 reproduction allows us to include in the analysis the strategies pursued by female immigrants within the context of mobility processes taking place between increasingly guarded and dangerous borders. Such strategies seek to combine precarious jobs—underpaid, unstable, part-time, proliferating in the "free trade zones” of a deindustrialized economy (Cobo, 2005)—with the daily care for children, partners and dependents both in their destinations and in their places of origin, where brothers, aging parents and, on many occasions, their own children are left in the care of other women, dependent on their provisions.

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