Faculty of law blogs / UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD

Lost Time and Enduring Hardship for Young Deported and Compelled Migrants in Mexico


Time to read

4 Minutes


Alexis M. Silver
Purchase College – State University of New York
Melissa A. Manzanares
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Liron Goldring
Purchase College – State University of New York

Guest post by Alexis M. Silver, Purchase College – State University of New York, Melissa A. Manzanares, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Liron Goldring, Purchase College – State University of New York. This is the third post in the themed series that marks one year since the release of Stealing Time: Migration, Temporalities and State Violence (co-edited by Victoria Canning and Monish Bhatia). 

Valladolid, Mexico


I never thought of coming to Mexico before I got deported. I don't know. I went in panic. I didn't know where to go. I didn't even know where I was from. I had to call my mom. I stayed over a week in Nogales in the bus station [where I was deported to] because to be honest, I didn't know where to go. I didn't know where to run. -Boris (deported from Arizona after several minor driving infractions)

Having spent his childhood and adolescence in the United States, Boris (pseudonym) was completely unprepared to return to Mexico. Boris, one of the individuals highlighted in our chapter for the book Stealing Time, lost a week of time while he remained in a bus station paralyzed with uncertainty. After he spoke with his mother who connected him with his grandfather in San Miguel de Allende, he began to move again, but his journey to reunite with his extended family was not a smooth one.

In his first failed attempt to navigate the bus system in Mexico, Boris passed through San Miguel de Allende without realizing it. Lost, he returned to Nogales, again passing through San Miguel, before eventually making it to his grandparents’ house several days later. Once in San Miguel, Boris continued to get lost in the city and would have to call his relatives to give him directions or take expensive taxis back to his grandparents’ house. Thus, Boris continued to feel uprooted and lost for months after his return.  Nearly all of the deported and compelled returnees we interviewed described similar struggles as they lost both time and money trying to get their bearings in their new communities of residence.

Boris recounted his experience since his deportation during the summer of 2018. He was one of 48 people who spoke to us about their complicated journeys after they were forcibly returned or deportated to Mexico after having grown up in the United States. Like Boris, many young adults who spent their formative years in the United States never imagined leaving, and only returned due to deportation or when faced with threats of deportation and limited opportunities for advancement due to their lack of authorized immigration status. Young return migrants and deportees who grew up in the United States are in unique social and economic positions. Although they have valuable English language skills and are of prime working age, they often lack social connections in Mexico and suffer from the shock and isolation of returning to a place where they have little or no experience and few social connections. Previous research illustrates the harm of lost autonomy and time that accompanies deportation (see work by Canning 2019; De Genova 2010; Khosravi 2018). Though the scars of deportation and “compelled return” (Cassarino 2008) can fade over time, they never disappear.

For example, Boris found himself stalled from making strides toward upward mobility and robust integration for years beyond his initial return. He describes meandering from one low paying job to another after he was turned down for a position at a hotel in the historic tourist center of San Miguel when he could not provide recommendations. He secured his first job at a car wash for very low wages. From there, he moved through several other low-wage positions before finally obtaining a job as a server at a restaurant in the historic center. He explained that he secured his last position through a recommendation from a friend who worked there:

I think that to get inside of a good job here in San Miguel, you gotta get recommended. You can't go inside…say a store, a restaurant, a hotel, motel, and show 'em your currículum [resume]…and expect to get a good job. You gotta have somebody inside there bring you in. Because otherwise they won't hire you.

As indicated by Boris, while returnees may possess qualities desired by employers such as being fluent in English and being able to relate to American clients, these skills are often insufficient to get hired. Building a work history in Mexico and having connections are important to finding employment, with the latter cited more frequently by returnees.

Young returnees emphasized how in the months immediately following return, they were isolated and lacked knowledge of the Mexican labor market. Lacking local knowledge and social connections, they lost precious time and income working informal jobs or low-wage jobs before finding employment where they could utilize their bilingual and bicultural skills.

Similarly, returnees spent months and sometimes years attempting to transfer, validate, or make up education credits from the United States. Given the complexity of transferring their education credentials, it is not surprising that some returnees abandoned their efforts to validate their US education and either redid their schooling in Mexico or set aside their educational aspirations entirely. A seamless transfer into the school system would ease the adjustment period for return migrants who were educated in the United States, yet many Mexican-born individuals who grew up in the United States encountered layers of obstacles that impeded and sometimes blocked their entrance into high school and college in Mexico in spite of their citizenship.

Time wasted on redoing or validating schooling, or while unemployed or underemployed resulted in earnings unrealized during a period when resources were scarce and the costs of rebuilding one’s life high. All of the participants in this study experienced considerable losses of time, money, and autonomy as they struggled to establish themselves in their birth country. In some cases, losses in education and earning potential had not been recovered by the time that we interviewed these migrants, years after their removal or return to Mexico. As young migrants who grew up in the United States return to Mexico in greater numbers, it is imperative that emotional, educational and labor market assistance becomes more widespread and robust.

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How to cite this blog post (Harvard style):

A. Silver, M. Manzanares and L. Goldring. (2022) Lost Time and Enduring Hardship for Young Deported and Compelled Migrants in Mexico. Available at:https://blogs.law.ox.ac.uk/border-criminologies-blog/blog-post/2022/07/lost-time-and-enduring-hardship-young-deported-and. Accessed on: 24/04/2024

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