Rice Researcher Says Mexican Migrants are Increasingly Women

Calling it a major shift in who traditionally crosses the border into the United Staets, a Rice University demographer says the number of Mexican women migrants has increased dramatically over the past several decades.

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The study by Rice University sociology professor Katharine Donato gleaned statistics from the Mexican Migration Project and various other migration studies and found that between 35 and 40 percent of undocumented migrants from Mexico are women. "It is not what it used be be," says Donato. "It really used to be so few women crossing without documents and now women as a group represent an important part of the process, with no signs of decline."

Donato found distinct differences in they way men and women migrants cross the border. Women are more likely to cross at established checkpoints using false documents. They also tend to be more careful and avoid dangerous crossings in desolate areas. She says they're also more likely to use paid guides.

Changes in immigration law, Donato says, have also encouraged the migration of Mexican women, in particular, a 1986 law that gave amnesty to millions of migrants already in the United States.

Donato says women joining husbands and other male relatives already in the United States because of the 1986 law and other more recent ones is a major factor in the migration increase. Tatcho Mindiola is the director of the Mexican-American Studies Program at the University of Houston and says although woman may never migrate in greater overall numbers than men, they might be taking the lead in certain border areas. "My impression is, for example, that domestic help, and landscaping help and childcare along the border areas in cities like El Paso and Brownsville, there is already an unusual number of women who are crossing over and fulfilling those traditional roles," says Mindiola.

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