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Christine L. Williams, Chair CLA 3.306, Mailcode A1700, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-232-6300

Emily Ryo - "Becoming Illegal: Modeling Rationality and Morality of Unauthorized Migrants"

Wed, October 24, 2012 • 12:00 PM • BUR 214

Abstract: Why are there so many unauthorized migrants in the United States? Using unique survey data collected in Mexico through the Mexican Migration Project, I develop and test a new decision-making model of unauthorized labor migration. This new model considers not only the economic motivations of prospective migrants, but also their beliefs, attitudes, and social norms regarding U.S. immigration law and legal authorities. I find that individuals’ general legal attitude, morality about violating U.S. immigration law, views about the legitimacy of U.S. authority, and social norms about border crossing, are significant determinants of their intent to migrate illegally (controlling for demographic and economic factors). I also find that perceptions of procedural justice promote beliefs in the legitimacy of U.S. authority, suggesting that, all else being equal, procedural fairness may produce greater deference to U.S. immigration law. Together, these results show that even in the context of unauthorized migration in which economics play a powerful role, the decision to migrate cannot be fully understood without considering an individual’s underlying values and norms.

Bio: Emily Ryo is currently a research fellow at Stanford Law School.  Prior to joining Stanford Law School in 2011, she received a Ph.D. in sociology from Stanford University.  She received her J.D. from Harvard Law School (magna cum laude), and B.A. (history) from University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana (summa cum laude).  Her mixed-methods dissertation, Becoming Illegal, develops a new decision-making model of unauthorized labor migration, which considers not only the economic motivations of prospective unauthorized migrants, but also their beliefs, attitudes, and social norms regarding U.S. immigration law and legal authorities.  An article that draws upon this dissertation is forthcoming in the American Sociological Review.  She has received numerous fellowships and grants, including the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and the Mellon Foundation Dissertation Fellowship.


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