Introduction. Between 1999-2007, the U.S. deported 4.8 million migrants to Mexico; of these, 1.1 million migrants were deported to the border city of Tijuana, Baja California. Deportees are often returned to unfamiliar communities where they may experience emotional and socioeconomic stressors that may raise their risk for engaging in unsafe behaviors.
Objective. This exploratory study describes adaptation to the post-deportation environment among Mexican-born injection drug-using women.
Method. In 2008, we conducted qualitative interviews in Tijuana with 12 women reporting U.S. deportation. Our analytic framework focused on acculturation stress, adaptation and social capital in relation to HIV risk, considering a gender perspective.
Results. We found that the stress caused by the deportation experience and acclimating to the post-deportation community may have contributed to the women’s participation in high-risk HIV behaviors (e.g., unprotected sex, sex work). Female deportees reported limited access to post-deportation social capital resources (e.g., social support, healthy social networks). Social factors (e.g., discrimination, lack of a government identification) challenged women’s resettlement and likely contributed to economic and health vulnerabilities.
Discussion and conclusion. These preliminary findings suggest that deportees may benefit from organized services at repatriation, including mental health screening. Macro-level interventions that address stigma and facilitate deportees’ economic integration may help stem engagement in risk behaviors.