Together and apart: transnational life in the US–Mexico border region


Transnational, family, border, migration


The term ‘transnationalism’ evokes notions of unity and strong bonds cultivated across international borders, and scholars of transnationalism have highlighted the ways in which international migrants’ cross-border ties have reduced the social and emotional distance between home and host communities. Based on data from interviews with 24 mixed-citizenship couples living in Mexican border cities, I find that the experience of transnationalism for these families is, surprisingly, quite the opposite of its outcomes: while transnational actors unify individuals, families, and communities that would otherwise be disconnected, the transnational actors themselves assume that burden of disconnection. Whether or not they regularly cross the border, borderlands transmigrants and their families experience the intrusion of the border on their lives in three specific ways: through the physical and symbolic presence of the border; through the act of crossing the border; and through US immigration laws and their associated punishments embodied by the border. While these families epitomise ‘transnationalism’ as it is described in the literature, their day-to-day experiences do not resonate as life across, beyond, or through borders, but rather an ‘entre-national’ life between borders, one bifurcated by the border and the sovereign powers it represents.

Original Publication Citation

López, Jane Lilly. 2018. “Together and Apart: Transnational Life in the US-Mexico Border Region.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369183X.2018.1523003

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies




Family, Home, and Social Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor