Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Illegal crossings are down, but not because of border fence

Border Patrol apprehensions may have dipped to the lowest rate in 35 years, but it has nothing to do with border security. Rates of illegal migration are governed by social and economic forces, not by expensive surveillance technology, walls and the Border Patrol. It thus makes no sense to continue to rely on an expensive and failed border fortification as a centerpiece of our immigration policy.

Proponents of more border fortification argue that added manpower, new technologies and a get-tough detention policy have combined to bring the number of border apprehensions down nearly 35 percent over the last three years. But border enforcement is not what's reducing the flow of illegal immigration.

Wayne Cornelius and researchers at the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California-San Diego have been collecting data for years on thousands of people who have migrated between the U.S. and Mexico. Their data shows that added enforcement does not deter people from attempting to cross illegally.

Among veteran and first-time migrants interviewed in 2007-08, concerns about the difficulty and danger of crossing had no statistical effect on their plans to migrate. Most (63 percent) were worried primarily about Mexican police or bandits. Only 35 percent said fences, the Border Patrol or National Guard personnel were their greatest concern.

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