Militarization of the Mexican border made unauthorized immigration worse

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

I previously posted about the $30 billion dollar border security "surge" amendment by Tea-Publican Senators Bob Corker and John Hoeven in the U.S. Senate "Gang of Eight" comprehensive immigration bill. The price for GOP nativism and racism: $30+ billion wasted dollars.

Our own Senator John McCain said, "I mean this is not only sufficient, it is well over-sufficient. We'll
be the most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall
. That's
why I think this amendment was very important." Sen. McCain: US will have 'most militarized' border since Berlin Wall.

One has to question why McCain longs for a Berlin Wall in the United States, because we are all about "freedom!" Are we now the "evil empire" of the Soviet Union in McCain's fevered dreams?

Apparently our purported military "genius" — according to the Sunday morning bobblehead shows — is unfamiliar with the famous quotation from General George S. Patton: "Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man." The Berlin Wall is a primary example.

Last week, Ezra Klein posted about a study by Princeton University's Doug Massey, one of the nation’s preeminent immigration scholars. Everything you know about immigration is wrong:

Everything you know about immigration, particularly unauthorized immigration, is wrong.

[Massey] thinks we’ve wasted a whole lot of money on immigration policy and are about to waste a whole lot more.

Massey slices the history of Mexico-to-U.S. migration in five periods . . .

After passage of a comprehensive immigration law in 1986, the U.S.
began militarizing the border with Mexico even as the General Agreement
on Tariffs and Trade and, later, the North American Free Trade
Agreement strengthened economic ties with Mexico. From 1986 to 2000,
trade with Mexico increased eightfold.

Until this point, there isn’t much to dispute in Massey’s narrative.
But here his immigration story takes a turn that confounds Washington’s
conventional wisdom and makes a mockery of the current political debate.

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.

* * *

The data support Massey’s thesis: In 1980, 46 percent of undocumented
Mexican migrants returned to Mexico within 12 months. By 2007, that was
down to 7 percent. As a result, the permanent undocumented population
exploded.

The militarization also had another unintended consequence: It
dispersed the undocumented population
. Prior to 1986, about 85 percent
of Mexicans who entered the U.S. settled in California, Texas
or Illinois, and more than two-thirds entered through either the San
Diego-Tijuana entry point or the El Paso-Juarez entry point. As the U.S.
blockaded those areas, undocumented migrants found new ways in — and
new places to settle. By 2002, two-thirds of undocumented migrants were
entering at a non-San Diego/El Paso entry point and settling in a
“nontraditional” state.

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,
where unemployment is 5 percent and wages have been rising. “I
personally think the huge boom in Mexican immigration is over,” Massey
said.

Yet the political debate over immigration is stuck in 1985. Congress
is focused above all on how to further militarize an already militarized
border — despite the fact that doubling the size of the border
patrol since 2004 and installing hundreds of miles of barriers and
surveillance equipment appears to have been counterproductive.

* * *

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.

As you might expect, the nativist anti-immigrant organizations that demand we build a double wall with “a flaming moat, filled with fireproof crocodiles” (h/t Stephen Colbert), and patrol the skies with armed predator drones to achieve 100% "border security" were none too happy. Mark Kirkorian of the nativist anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies responded with a post in the National Review (but of course) to Ezra Klein’s article.

Today, Ezra Kein gives Doug Massey a chance to reply in Who’re you going to believe on immigration? Mark Krikorian or your lying eyes?:

Klein’s article
in The Washington Post summarized my work on Mexico-U.S. migration,
which concludes that the huge increase in border enforcement since 1986
has backfired by reducing the rate of return for undocumented migration
to Mexico rather than lowering the rate of undocumented departure for
the United States.

This is a simple statement of empirical fact. Indeed, as stated in a recent report
by the National Academy of Sciences, “rather than acting as a
deterrent, increased enforcement appears to have other effects on
migrant behavior: it increases the duration of trips and reduces the
likelihood of return migration.”

The possibility that ever more border enforcement might actually be
stupid and counterproductive is anathema to Kirkorian’s organization,
the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates strict controls on
immigration. He therefore dismisses the finding as a “pet theory”
articulated for nefarious political purposes. He then trundles out a
dated chart of my own data and argues that it shows precisely the
opposite of what I argue. Don’t believe your lyin’ eyes!

Well, seeing is believing and here I reproduce the latest update of that chart, which comes from the Web site of the Mexican Migration Project, which I co-direct with my colleague Jorge Durand.
Since 1982, the MMP has surveyed tens of thousands of Mexicans on both
sides of the border to create the largest and most reliable database
available on Mexican migration to the United States. The MMP is an
award-winning, publicly funded project whose design and results are
subject to regular scientific peer-review. All data are publicly available
from the project website and can be downloaded at any time should
anyone wish to check our computations or do their own research.

Return-immigration-trip

The chart I reproduce presents the probability of returning to Mexico
within 12 months of entering the United States on a first undocumented
trip. The probability is computed by year from 1965 through 2010 using
life history data gathered from representative interviews done with some
24,000 household heads. As can be seen, the likelihood of return
migration was quite high through 1986, when Congress passed the
Immigration Reform and Control Act to initiate the militarization of the
border. In that year, the probability of return migration stood at
0.60, meaning that 60% of all undocumented migrants returned to Mexico
within a year of entering the United States.

Thereafter the return probability began to fall, reaching just 0.48
in 1993.  In that year, however, the U.S. Border Patrol launched
Operation Blockade in El Paso and followed up in 1994 with Operation
Gatekeeper in San Diego. These intensive operations sought to seal off
the two busiest border-crossing sectors. Rather than reducing the
inflow, however, this intensification of enforcement caused the
probability of return migration to fall even faster, ultimately reducing
it to an all-time low of 0.08 in 2010.

As I look at the figure, it clearly supports the conclusions of the
National Academy of Sciences panel and contradicts the views of Mr.
Kirkorian and the Center for Immigration Studies. But readers can draw
their own conclusions.

Once again, we are having the wrong conversation about policy in Washington, because the discussion is driven by ignorance, fear, prejudice, and partisan politics.

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