A new study was released last week by the University of Arizona Center for Latin American Studies titled, "In the Shadow of the Wall: Family Separation, Immigration Enforcement and Security." The interdisciplinary study, funded by the Ford Foundation, set out to explore and critique the prevailing notion that heightened border security is a necessary expense in solving the nation's immigration issues.
Among other topics, the authors of the study found that "deterrence through arrest and removal is largely ineffective." Through interviewing many migrants themselves in border towns like Nogales, often in shelters, the researchers found that over 50 percent of those apprehended and deported planned to make the crossing again in the future. Typically, they found that the subjects interviewed had an average of three lifetime crossings and at least one apprehension, indicating that they weren't deterred by having been apprehended.
The study's authors wrote that the majority of those interviewees who planned to return had a family and a life in the U.S., despite their undocumented status. An eighteen year old named Juan commented, "I have been in the United States since I was five. I got in a fight right after I turned eighteen and the judge deported me. I don't know anyone in Mexico. I don't exist here or in the United States."
Thus, many exist in a shadow culture, drifting between Mexico, their families in the United States, and the criminal justice system and detention.
The study also focused on the special challenges of women caught up in the immigration cycle. In the midst of crossing the border, women are often the most vulnerable targets, and rape, beatings and sexual violence are not uncommon. Furthermore, victims are unlikely to seek the aid of law enforcement because of their immigration status.
However, the study notes that violence is not limited to women. Both men and women are vulnerable to violence at the hands of drug mules and coyotes. Numerous assaults, robberies, and murders have been reported each year.
Finally, the report investigated abuses in the immigration enforcement system once immigrants are in the U.S. Many Due Process concerns were outlined and highlighted by telling statistics: 30 percent of interviewees reported having signed documents that were not explained to them, and 28 percent reported that they felt pressured to sign the documents.
The report concluded with recommendations for addressing these problems. Namely, it promoted decreasing the emphasis on border security, criminal punishment and deportation, and allocating more resources toward family reunification, a path to citizenship, and avenues for immigration relief.