There is a conflation of Mexican origin with the category “undocumented immigrant” that targets and stigmatizes undocumented Mexicans – I call this Mexican illegality stigma. I assess whether Mexican illegality stigma negatively affects the psychological well-being of Mexican-origin individuals in the US, distinguishing between undocumented Mexicans and citizen Mexican Americans. I draw from the stress process model and 52 in-depth interviews – 30 with undocumented young adults from Mexico and 22 with US-born young adults of Mexican descent – to evaluate how undocumented Mexicans and citizen Mexican Americans experience Mexican illegality stigma and to determine whether it affects the psychological well-being of undocumented Mexicans in a distinct manner. I found that all respondents experienced social rejection and discrimination when they were assumed or perceived as undocumented Mexicans. While few of the US-born respondents were affected by these incidents, most undocumented young adults found these incidents stressful because they were humiliating, excluded them from valuable resources and opportunities, and forced them to incur financial burden (e.g., unfair fines), which disrupted their transition to adulthood processes such as parenthood and labor market advancement. This study found evidence that Mexican illegality stigma is a stressor and source of distress for undocumented young adults from Mexico. As opposition to undocumented immigration from Mexico intensifies, the hostile context may further strain the psychological well-being of undocumented Mexicans.
Del Real, D. (2019), "“They see us like Trash”: How Mexican Illegality Stigma Affects the Psychological Well-being of Undocumented and US-born Young Adults of Mexican Descent", Immigration and Health (Advances in Medical Sociology, Vol. 19), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 205-228. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1057-629020190000019010
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