Graduation Semester and Year




Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History



First Advisor

Cristina Salinas

Second Advisor

Stephanie Cole


There is a misconception that once an undocumented immigrant marries a US citizen his or her legal status is automatic – simple and quick. The reality is different. In the current immigration system, an undocumented migrant must first show evidence of “extreme hardship,” before receiving el perdón, the waiver of inadmissibility for unlawful entry that permits migrants to avoid el castigo, the punishment that bans undocumented migrants from the US for three to ten years. Ironically, for unlawful entrants, their families must first be separated in order to stay together, a concept that is contrary to family reunification policies of immigration law. This paper examines how the waiver of inadmissibility for unlawful entry is mired with historical and legal contradictions that impact the moral, social, political and cultural spaces of both the undocumented immigrant and his or her legal status family members. My goal is to broaden an understanding of the history of two accompanying legal sections of the law, el castigo and el perdón, the contradictory motivations that have structured a discretionary legal framework and immigration policies as it exists today, and the moral understanding underpinning the two aspects of the waiver - the punishing and forgiving of a human being.


Immigration, Mexican, El Castigo, El Perdón, Unlawful entry


Arts and Humanities | History


Degree granted by The University of Texas at Arlington

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