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Job Placement Prospects and Attitudes Toward Employment for Undocumented Mexican Border-Crossers in a U.S. Federal Correctional Institution

G. William Lucker, Harmon M. Hosch, Guido Barrientos, Adolfo J. Álvarez, Pedro Barrera Valdivia


The influx of undocumented border-crossers from the Republic of Mexico into the United States has reached alarming proportions. The concern stems not only from their anticipated impact on job markets and social services utilization (Cooper 1985), but also from their growing impact on the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. Illegal immigration is a federal offense and punishable by imprisonment in federal facilities. In 1970, the total number of arrested illegal entrants was 345,353 (80.3 percent Mexican). However, only 2,865 were prosecuted and convicted of illegal entry or illegal re-entry. In 1978, a total of 862,217 illegal border-crossers were apprehended (98 percent Mexican) of which 15,519 were prosecuted and convicted of either illegal entry or illegal re-entry (INS Annual Reports 1981). A record 1.77 million undocumented aliens were apprehended nationwide in fiscal 1986, a one-third increase over 1985 according to the U.S. Justice Department ("Record Number" 1986). Because all these cases have not yet been disposed of by the criminal justice system, there are no estimates about numbers of convictions for illegal entry from this pool. It is clear, however, that the federal prison system is struggling to keep up with the increasing number of convicted illegal entrants. Federal correctional facilities are currently housing about 31,000 inmates, which is about 28 percent over capacity ("Bulging Prisons..." 1984).

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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
Online ISSN: 2159-1229