Is Securing the Border Causing Illegal Immigration?

This is from Princeton University’s Doug Massey, via Ezra Klein:

According to Massey, the rise of America’s large undocumented population is a direct result of the militarization of the border. While undocumented workers once traveled back and forth from Mexico with relative ease, after the border was garrisoned, immigrants from Mexico crossed the border and stayed.

“Migrants quite rationally responded to the increased costs and risks by minimizing the number of times they crossed the border,” Massey wrote in his 2007 paper “Understanding America’s Immigration ‘Crisis.'” “But they achieved this goal not by remaining in Mexico and abandoning their intention to migrate to the U.S., but by hunkering down and staying once they had run the gauntlet at the border and made it to their final destination.”

…In recent years, the net inflow of new undocumented immigrants arriving from Mexico has fallen to zero. Some of the decline is due to the U.S. recession and a falloff in construction, which employed a lot of migrant workers. But some is due to an improving economy in Mexico…

In light of these facts, the debate is backward. Republicans in the House of Representatives are focused on further militarizing the border against the people who are no longer crossing it; at the same time, they are loath to do anything about the millions of real undocumented immigrants who are the legacy of the last buildup. At best, we can hope to waste tens of billions of dollars on further enforcement in return for a lengthy and complicated path to citizenship. At worst, we’ll do nothing — in which case this will be known as the era of wasted opportunity.

Comments (14)

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  1. August says:

    I’ve always thought the idea of securing the border before reforming immigration is stupid.

    • Tom says:

      I always thought the idea of securing the border, the way in which it is thought about, is not very smart.

  2. Cabaret says:

    Why let water spill over the dam instead of flowing through it.

    • Afton says:

      The dam analogy isn’t perfect.

      “While undocumented workers once traveled back and forth from Mexico with relative ease, after the border was garrisoned, immigrants from Mexico crossed the border and stayed.”

  3. Buster says:

    Maybe it’s the idea that it’s now or never. Or maybe it’s the economy improving.

  4. Tom says:

    More spending, no evidence it really deters illegal immigration and….so what’s the point? Now we’re looking at it increasing the amount of illegal immigrants…I’ve always thought there were so many reasons why “securing the border” was a bad idea, especially with no real comprehensive immigration reform in place.

  5. Brenden says:

    It doesn’t cause illegal immigration. They would migrate regardless of whether or not it was secured.

  6. Ashley says:

    Borders shouldn’t exist. They really just segregate people

  7. Bosh says:

    First, while immigration has decreased…it is still happening, so that isn’t an argument to not militarize (which is not the appropriate word to use, it should protect the border, because it’s national guard not U.S. military) Second of all, that is why we have ICE (the replacement of the INS.) The strategy is to decrease people crossing over to american and once they stay in america we find them and deport them.

  8. Linda Gorman says:

    Borders don’t matter? Let’s do the thought experiment. Say that borders go away and 500 million people from China plus the populations of North Korea, and half of Pakistan and Iran move to the US tomorrow.

    Will American culture be preserved? How about the American welfare state?

    And it is obviously possible to fortify borders in ways that stop immigration. Look at East Germany, the Soviet Union, and North Korea for examples.

  9. Bubba says:

    That’s something that Libertarians fail to comprehend. They favor open border and free trade in labor, but haven’t thought through the implications.

    If the U.S. border was open, within a generation, 1 billion people — or maybe two billion — would immigrate here. Immigrants would undercut and displace the domestic labor force. Their children born here would be citizens. The second generation of immigrants would quickly vote for a European welfare state when they discover there are rich corporations for the plundering.