English Proficiency and Trust Networks among Undocumented Mexican Migrants

Published date01 July 2019
Date01 July 2019
ANNALS, AAPSS, 684, July 2019 105
DOI: 10.1177/0002716219855024
Proficiency and
Trust Networks
855024ANN THE ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMYEnglish Proficiency and Trust Networks among Undocumented Mexican Migrants
This study explores whether being a member of a
migration-trust network (MTN; social structures that
immigrants create to manage the challenges of undocu-
mented status) affects the acquisition of English lan-
guage proficiency among undocumented heads of
household who migrate to the United States from
Mexico. The analysis shows that human capital accu-
mulation and interactions with non-Hispanic white
Americans are important to learning English in this
migrant population. But it also suggests that member-
ship in an MTN can inhibit the acquisition of English
language proficiency. I use Mexican Migration Project
data and other accumulated research to argue that
being undocumented and participating in MTNs can
deter migrants from assimilating into American main-
stream society: a lack of legal status among many first-
generation Mexican immigrants pushes them toward
survival strategies that rely on MTNs.
Keywords: migration-trust networks; collective effi-
cacy; social capital; undocumented immi-
gration; paisanos
Research shows that Mexicans, like genera-
tions of immigrants before them, inte-
grate into U.S. society over time and across
generations—a tendency that is most clearly
demonstrated by comparing the children of
immigrants (i.e., second-generation immi-
grants) to their first-generation immigrant par-
ents (Waters and Pineau 2015). Some scholars
nonetheless argue that Mexican immigrants
today are not assimilating as fast as first-gener-
ation European migrants did at the turn of the
twentieth century (Huntington 2009). A major
Correspondence: nadia.flores@ttu.edu
Nadia Y. Flores-Yeffal is an assistant professor of sociol-
ogy at Texas Tech University. She is the author of
Migration-Trust Networks: Social Cohesion in Mexican
US-Bound Emigration (Texas A&M University Press
2013). Her recent work examines the causes, social pro-
cesses, and consequences of undocumented migration to
the United States and El Salvador.

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