The Migration Industry in the Mexico-U.S. Migratory System


  • Ruben Hernandez-Leon


This article proposes the concept of the migration industry as the ensemble of entrepreneurs, businesses and services which, motivated by the pursuit of financial gain, facilitate and sustain international migration. Although long present and woven into the human mobility literature, the migration industry has remained largely under theorized, excluded from any major research efforts and reduced to its illegal and informal dimensions. This article offers a comprehensive conceptualization of the migration industry, including legal, illegal, formal and informal activities, and their interaction and articulation with relevant actors and structures of the social process of international migration, namely, states, migrants and their networks, and advocacy organizations. As a distinct component of the social process of international migration, the content, dynamics and bounds of the migration industry depend on state immigration policies, the size, composition and geography of population flows and the modes of incorporation of immigrants.  The concept is applied to the study of the Mexico-U.S. migratory system and to the rise and consolidation of new destinations of Mexican immigration in the United States.


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