Precarious legality: regularizing Central American migrants in Mexico

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Ethnic and Racial Studies

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Migration, Mexico, Central America, regularization, illegalization, precarity


Regularization programmes for undocumented migrants are generally viewed as a form of transition from “illegality” to a secure legal status. Yet, as we argue in this article, in many countries, such as Mexico, this transition is often incomplete and reversible. This article discusses regularization programmes for undocumented migrants in Mexico before and after the introduction of the 2011 Migration Law and illustrates that the status migrants obtain is precarious, that is insecure and conditional upon their ability to meet requirements for status renewal. Focusing on Central Americans in Mexico, we suggest that many migrants have been unable to obtain or renew their status after new procedures were put in place in 2011. Coining the legality granted through Mexico’s regularization process “precarious legality”, we attribute it to the contradiction between Mexico’s stated respect for migrants’ human rights and the de facto commitment to immigration control.