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Gendered Paths to Legal Citizenship: The Case of Latin-American Immigrants in Phoenix, Arizona


  • Olivia Salcido,

  • Cecilia Menjívar

  • This research was made possible with support to Menjívar from DIGS grants in the then College of Public Programs, a grant from the then Center for Urban Studies at ASU, and Cowden Distinguished Professorship funds. We are thankful to the anonymous reviewers and the editors for their very helpful comments. None of the funding entities or the individuals who provided feedback bear any responsibility for what we ultimately did. Please address correspondence to Cecilia Menjívar, School of Social and Family Dynamics, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-3701; e-mail: or to Olivia Salcido, e-mail:


In this paper we seek to contribute to a greater understanding of legal citizenship by exploring the gendered experiences of Latin-American-origin immigrants in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area as they go through the legalization process. To explore this gendered angle we rely on in-depth interviews conducted from 1998 through 2008 with women and men from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico. The data reveal that although immigration policies and procedures are presumably gender neutral, they are in fact inflected with gendered meanings and enacted in gendered social structures. Gender ideologies permeate the processes to differentially affect the legalization, permanent legal residence, and citizenship processes of immigrant women and men. This article points to key gender inequalities in immigration law.