Everyday violence, structural racism and mistreatment at the US-Mexico border

Samantha Sabo, Susan Shaw, Maia Ingram, Nicolette Teufel-Shone, Scott Carvajal, Jill Guernsey de Zapien, Cecilia Rosales, Flor Redondo, Gina Garcia, Raquel Rubio-Goldsmith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


Immigration laws that militarize communities may exacerbate ethno-racial health disparities. We aimed to document the prevalence of and ways in which immigration enforcement policy and militarization of the US-Mexico border is experienced as everyday violence. Militarization is defined as the saturation of and pervasive encounters with immigration officials including local police enacting immigration and border enforcement policy with military style tactics and weapons. Data were drawn from a random household sample of US citizen and permanent residents of Mexican descent in the Arizona border region (2006-2008). Qualitative and quantitative data documented the frequency and nature of immigration related profiling, mistreatment and resistance to institutionalized victimization. Participants described living and working in a highly militarized environment, wherein immigration-related profiling and mistreatment were common immigration law enforcement practices. Approximately 25% of respondents described an immigration-related mistreatment episode, of which 62% were personally victimized. Nearly 75% of episodes occurred in a community location rather than at a US port of entry. Participant mistreatment narratives suggest the normalization of immigration-related mistreatment among the population. Given border security remains at the core of immigration reform debates, it is imperative that scholars advance the understanding of the public health impact of such enforcement policies on the daily lives of Mexican-origin US permanent residents, and their non-immigrant US citizen co-ethnics. Immigration policy that sanctions institutional practices of discrimination, such as ethno-racial profiling and mistreatment, are forms of structural racism and everyday violence. Metrics and systems for monitoring immigration and border enforcement policies and institutional practices deleterious to the health of US citizens and residents should be established.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)66-74
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - May 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Discrimination
  • Farmworkers
  • Immigration
  • Mistreatment
  • Stress
  • US-Mexico border
  • USA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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