They Never Come Back

They Never Come Back

A Story of Undocumented Workers from Mexico

For Mexicans on both sides of the border, the migrant experience has changed significantly over the past two decades. In They Never Come Back, Frans J. Schryer draws on the experiences of indigenous people from a region in the Mexican state of Guerrero to explore the impact of this transformation on the lives of migrants. When handicraft production was able to provide a viable alternative to agricultural labor, most migrants would travel to other parts of Mexico to sell their wares. Others opted to work for wages in the United States, returning to Mexico on a regular basis.

This is no longer the case. At first almost everyone, including former craft vendors, headed north; however it also became more difficult to go back home and then reenter the United States. One migrant quoted by Schryer laments, "Before I was an artisan and free to travel all over Mexico to sell my crafts. Here we are all locked in a box and cannot get out." NAFTA, migrant labor legislation, and more stringent border controls have all affected migrants' home communities, their relations with employers, their livelihoods, and their identity and customs.

Schryer traces the personal lives and careers of indigenous men and women on both sides of the border. He finds that the most pressing issue facing undocumented workers is not that they are unable to earn enough money but, rather, that they are living in a state of ongoing uncertainty and will never be able to achieve their full potential. Through these stories, Schryer offers a nuanced understanding of the predicaments undocumented workers face and the importance of the ongoing debate around immigration policy.