In Mexico, tattooed migrants face discrimination and are at high-risk of incarceration, thus, we assessed whether receiving laser tattoo removal affected the likelihood of incarceration. In 2015–2016, 89 adults ages ≥ 18 years with visible tattoos were recruited at a free-clinic to receive laser tattoo removal or assigned to the wait-list; all completed baseline and 6-month questionnaires. Overall, 97.8% of participants ever migrated to the USA. In multivariate analyses restricted to migrants (n = 87), those receiving laser tattoo removal [Adjusted Odds Ratio (AOR) 0.27, 95% CI 0.07–0.89] and possessing a Mexican Voting card (AOR 0.14; 95% CI 0.03–0.58) were significantly less likely than wait-list participants to be incarcerated at 6-months. Previously incarcerated participants were significantly more likely to be incarcerated at follow-up. Tattoo removal may reduce incarceration among Mexican migrants. Future studies can assess other health and social benefits of tattoo removal for migrants/deportees returning to Mexico.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Drazewski P. Tattoo stigma and job discrimination. 2013; Theses and Dissertations. p. 148
Hawkes D, Senn C, Thorn C. Factors that influence attitudes toward women with tattoos. Sex Roles. 2004;50(9/10):593–604.
Madera J, Hebl M. Discrimination against facially stigmatized applicants in interviews: an eye-tracking and face-to-face investigation. J Appl Psychol. 2012;97(2):317–30.
Swami V, Furnham A. Unattractive, promiscuous and heavy drinkers: Perceptions of women with tattoos. Body Image. 2007;4(4):343–52.
Komar D, Lathrop S. Tattoo types and frequencies in New Mexican white hispanics and white non-hispanics: autopsy data from homicidal and accidental deaths, 2002–2005. Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2008;29(4):285–9.
Mc Mahon J, Pouget E, Tortu S. Individual and couple-level risk factors for hepatitis C infection among heterosexual drug users: a multilevel dyadic analysis. J Infectous Dis. 2007;195(11):1572–81.
Yen C, Hsiao R, Yen J, Yeh Y, Wang P, Lin H, KJo C. Tattooing among high school students in southern Taiwan: the prevalence, correlates and associations with risk-taking behaviors and depression. Kaohsiung J Med Sci. 2012;28(7):383–9.
Van Dooren K, Claudio F, Kinner S, Williams M. Beyond reintegration: a framework for understanding ex-prisoner health. Int J Prison Health. 2011;7(4):26–36.
Campbell H. Narco-propaganda in the Mexican “drug war”. Lat Am Perspect. 2014;41(2):60–77.
Kun J, Montezemolo F. Tijuana dreaming: life and art at the global border. Durham: Duke University Press; 2014.
Pinedo M, Burgos J, Ojeda AV, FitzGerald D, Ojeda VD. The role of visual markers in police victimization among structurally vulnerable persons in Tijuana, Mexico. Int J Drug Policy. 2015;26(5):501–8.
Bazan L, Harris L, Lorentzen L. Migrant gangs, religion and tattoo removal. Peace Rev. 2002;14(4):379–83.
Herrera E, Jones G, de Benitez ST. Bodies on the line: identity markers among Mexican street youth. Child Geogr. 2009;7(1):37–41.
Scambler G. Re-framing stigma: felt and enacted stigma and challenges to the sociology of chronic and disabling conditions. Soc Theory Health. 2004;2(1968):29–46.
Volkmann T, Lozada R, Anderson CM, Patterson T, Vera A, Strathdee S. Factors associated with drug-related harms related to policing in Tijuana, Mexico. Harm Reduct J. 2011;8(1):7.
Davidson P, Lozada R, Rosen P, Macias A, Gallardo M, Pollini R. Negotiating access: social barriers to purchasing syringes at pharmacies in Tijuana, Mexico. Int J Drug Policy. 2012;23(4):286–94.
Beletsky L, Grau LE, White E, Bowman S, Heimer R. The roles of law, client race and program visibility in shaping police interference with the operation of US syringe exchange programs. Addiction. 2011;106(2):357–65.
Horyniak D, Pinedo M, Burgos J, Ojeda V. Relationships between integration and drug use among deported migrants in Tijuana, Mexico. J Immigr Minor Health. 2017;19:1196–206.
Pinedo M, Burgos J, Zuniga M, Perez R, Macera C, Ojeda VD. Police victimization among persons who inject drugs along the U.S.-Mexico border. J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2015;76(5):758–63.
Pollini R, Alvelais J, Gallardo M, Vera A, Lozada R, Magis-Rodriguez C, Strathdee S. The harm inside: injection during incarceration among male injection drug users in Tijuana, Mexico. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2009;103(1–2):52–8.
National Migration Institute of Mexico. Guía de Procedimiento de Repatriación Al Interior de México. 2018 http://www.inm.gob.mx/static/repatriacion_h/Repatriacion_H.pdf. Accessed 1 July 2018.
París Pombo MD. Procesos de repatriación. Experiencias de las personas devueltas a México por las autoridades estadounidenses. Tijuana. México: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars-El Colegio de la Frontera Norte; 2010.
Goffman E. Stigma; notes on the management of spoiled identity. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall; 1963.
Jacoby A. Felt versus enacted stigma: a concept revisited. Evidence from a study of people with epilepsy in remission. Soc Sci Med. 1994;38(2):269–74.
Link B, Phelan J. Conceptualizing stigma. Annu Rev Sociol. 2001;27:363–85.
Brotherton B, Barrios L. Displacement and stigma: the social-psychological crisis of the deportee. Crime Media Cult. 2009;5(1):29–55.
Hagan J, Eschbach K, Rodriguez N. US deportation policy, family separation, and circular migration. Int Migrat Rev. 2008;42(1):64–88.
Schuster L, Nassim M. Deportation Stigma and Re-migration. J Ethn Migr Stud. 2015;41(4):635–52.
Albicker S, Velasco L. Deportación y estigma en la frontera México-Estados Unidos: atrapados en Tijuana. Norteamerica. 2016;11(1):99–129.
Roman J, Arroyo L, Cotto Gomez Z. Rasgando la Piel: Tatuajes, Cuerpos y Significados. Qual Rep. 2009;14(2):374–88.
Kroenke K, Spitzer R, Williams J. The patient health questionnaire-2: validity of a two-item depression screener. Med Care. 41(11):1284–1292.
Cella D, Yount S, Rothrock N, Gershon R, Cook K, Reeve B, Ader D, Fries J, Bruce B, Rose M, PROMIS Cooperative Group. The patient-reported outcomes measurement information system (PROMIS): progress of an NIH roadmap cooperative group during its first two years. Med Care. 2007;45(5 Suppl 1):3–11.
FDA. 510(k) summary QYAG laser handpiece. http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/cdrh_docs/pdf13/k130250.pdf.
Martinez N. Reintegrating into society: challenges and successes encountered by ex-offenders; 2009. pp. 1–69.
Beers K, Collins C, Sanchez-garcia M. Expanding opportunities and erasing barriers: tattoo removal as gang transition strategy. Walla Walla: Withman College; 2014.
Armstrong ML, Stuppy DJ, Gabriel D. Motivation for tattoo removal. Arch Dermatol. 1996;132(7):412–6.
Durose M, Cooper A, Snyder H. Recidivism of prisoners released in 30 states in 2005: patterns from 2005 to 2010. Washington, DC: Statistics US Department of Justice; 2014.
Håkansson A, Berglund M. Risk factors for criminal recidivism: a prospective follow-up study in prisoners with substance abuse. BMC Psychiatry. 2012;12:111.
Robertson A, Lozada R, Pollini RA, Rangei G, Ojeda V. Correlates and contexts of US injection drug initiation among undocumented Mexican migrant men who were deported from the United States. AIDS Behav. 2012;16(6):1670–80.
Robertson A, Lozada R, Vera A, Palinkas L, Burgos J, Magis-Rodriguez C, Rangei G, Ojeda V. Deportation experiences of women who inject drugs in Tijuana, Mexico. Qual Health Res. 2012;22(4):499–510.
Shader M. Risk factors for delinquency: an overview. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; 2004. pp. 1–11.
Ho S, Goh C: Laser tattoo removal: a clinical update. (JCAS Symposium) (Report). J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2015;8(1):9.
Shah SD, Aurangabadkar SJ. Newer trends in laser tattoo removal. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2015;8(1):25–9.
Choudhary S, Elsaie ML, Leiva A, Nouri K. Lasers for tattoo removal: a review. Lasers Med Sci. 2010;25(5):619–27.
Gorsic M, Bacak I, Ahcan U, Topcic V. Evaluation of the efficacy of tattoo-removal treatments with Q-Switch laser. J Laser Health Acad. 2013;2013(2):21–6.
Koikkalainen S, Kyle D. Imagining mobility: the prospective cognition question in migration research. J Ethn Migr Stud. 2015;42(5):759–76.
Decker S, Pyrooz D, Moule R. Disengagement from gangs as role transitions. J Res Adolesc. 2014;24(2):268–83.
Pyrooz D, Decker S, Webb V. The ties that bind: desistance from gangs. Crime Delinq. 2010;60:419–516.
Choi DY, Kiesner F. Homeboy industries: an incubator of hope and businesses: a note to instructors. Entrep Theory Pract. 2007;31(5):787–90.
We acknowledge funding from the following sources: the UC GloCal Fellowship and the AIDS International Training Research Program funded by the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health under Award Numbers R25TW009343 and D43TW008633 (Ojeda, Pinedo, Ferraiolo), and the National Institute on Mental Health Grant #K01MH095680 (Burgos). Kremer was supported by a Research Fellowship from the UCSD Office of Graduate Studies and Ojeda was supported by a Faculty Fellowship by the UCSD Center for US-Mexican Studies.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Kremer, P., Pinedo, M., Ferraiolo, N. et al. Tattoo Removal as a Resettlement Service to Reduce Incarceration Among Mexican Migrants. J Immigrant Minority Health 22, 110–119 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10903-019-00870-0
- Tattoo removal
- Deported migrants
- Gang tattoos