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Abstract

Migrants must often negotiate their rights while being hampered by their precarious resident status, within contexts where the overlap of migration, welfare, labour and gender regimes lead to incoherent and contradictory institutional set-ups that hinder their claiming of rights. The analysis of the legal consciousness of undocumented migrants in Germany reveals a complex set of orientations. On some occasions they waive their rights, accepting lower working conditions in order not to lose their jobs – a finding that confirms existing research. At the same time, they also informally “enact” rights and access to institutions themselves. They appeal to the experiences of undocumented migrants with laws and access to social services in other countries. The finding of relatively widespread transnational legal consciousness adds a new dimension to the scholarship on migrant legal consciousness and claims-making, which has hitherto portrayed undocumented migrants as living in a legal limbo between their countries of origin and destination.