GEOG 571
Intelligence Analysis, Cultural Geography, and Homeland Security

SECTION FOUR - Illegal Immigration and Smuggling in the U.S./Mexico Border Region

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A border patrol officer and a restrained individual seated on the ground behind a patrol vehicle.
Figure 5.12: Border Patrol Drug Arrest.
Credit: Gerald L. Nino, CBP, U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security.

Anyone who lives in close proximity to the U.S./Mexico Border knows that during the early years of the Twenty-First Century, illegal immigration became an increasingly serious problem. Moreover, even though the number of people illegally crossing into the USA from Mexico seems to have waned since 2010, illegal immigration and smuggling (especially drug smuggling) continue to create a serious security risk for the United States.

Although most citizens of the United States appear to have sympathy for people who immigrate in search of economic opportunities, they are also uncomfortable knowing that millions of illegal immigrants live in cities all over the United States. Nearly five hundred thousand illegal immigrants now live in Arizona, a state with a total population of about six million. Whereas President Obama issued executive directives designed to make it easier for many undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States (if they met certain well-defined standards), initially it seemed that President Trump intended to aggressively deport illegal/undocumented immigrants (especially those who have criminal records). Currently, it is difficult for me to grasp the Trump Administration's plans and positions relative to illegal immigrants. In mid-June 2017 Mr. Trump appears to have modified his position relative to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the USA from Mexico when they were children (Dreamers). The Obama Administration used the power of the executive order to allow law-abiding "Dreamers" to stay in the USA via renewable work permits. During his campaign and when he first assumed the office of the Presidency, it seemed that the Trump Administration planned to roll-back the Obama orders and then deport undocumented immigrants, including "Dreamers." Now, President Trump's spokespersons have stated that he will not deport "Dreamers."  

Illegal immigration has resulted in significant changes in the lives of the American citizens who live in the U.S./Mexico Border Region. For example, one cannot drive from Sierra Vista, Arizona to Tucson without stopping at a Border Patrol check point along the way. Additionally, people who live on the Indian Reservations near the border are often stopped and questioned. Everyone understands the need for these enforcement efforts, but no one likes to be stopped. Whereas the recent decrease in the number of people crossing illegally into the United States via the U.S./Mexican Border has resulted in a corresponding decrease in the number of crimes committed by illegal immigrants, without tighter border security, the security of the United States remains at risk. Furthermore, Americans should not become complacent about conditions on the U.S./Mexican Border. Drug smugglers remain very active and violent. In short, the Border Regions remains a very dangerous place.

Sources for the following Section Four discussion include:

Becker, Andrew, (2008) "Immigration Timeline: A Look at U.S. Policy Toward Immigration and Border Security with Mexico Over the Past Sixty Years," Frontline/World/Mexico:Border Timeline/PBS as found at www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/mexico704/history/timeline.html.
Currier, Cora (Feb. 26, 2017)  "The Long History of Deportation Scare Tactics at the U.S. Mexico Border.  The Intercept.  as found at https:// theintercept.com/.../the-long-history-of-deportation-scare-tactics-at-the-U-S-mc...