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Drawing largely on research on Mexican and Central American immigration to the United States, this article explores the relationship of risk to international undocumented migration, an association found with increasing regularity in public policy discussions, academic forums and the mass media. On the one hand, immigrants are seen as a population at risk, vulnerable to abuse by authorities and private citizens and to the possibility of death and injury by accidents. On the other hand, immigrants are presented as a risk to the economy, social integrity and cultural identity of society. It is argued that the complex and contradictory terms of the association, subsumed in these two positions, reflect contemporary debates about national and personal identity as well as inquiries into human nature intrinsic to this period of globalization.