Subject Area



This study observes how residents and unauthorized immigrants reacted innovatively alongside the undocumented economy due to the rigid immigration and economic legal systems between the United States and Mexico, especially the former. I examine such economic processes in California’s rural Imperial County and Baja California’s urban Mexicali between 1917 and 2000. During this period, both nation-states created immigration laws that influenced the region’s demographic makeup, transforming the area from a multiracial and multiethnic community into a predominantly ethnic-Mexican borderland. Despite ethnic Mexicans comprising most of the population in the Imperial-Mexicali Valley, restrictive immigration laws and discriminatory preconceptions pushed them into low-paying jobs in the agricultural, service, and retail sectors. Furthermore, lower annual immigration quotas in the late 1960s meant that many Mexican citizens had to pay for services and goods in that country in cash as unauthorized immigrants. Thus, residents and immigrants persevered by engaging in pioneering undocumented sub-economies. They formed swap meets and worked as informal street vendors, taxi drivers, housekeepers, and other occupations to alleviate their economic condition, expanding the borderland economy.

Degree Date

Spring 5-13-2023

Document Type


Degree Name





John R. Chávez

Second Advisor

Jill E. Kelly

Third Advisor

Neil Foley

Fourth Advisor

Jessica Ordaz

Number of Pages




Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

Available for download on Wednesday, May 03, 2028