Friday, October 10, 2008

Immigration policy and unintended consequences

The San Diego Weekly Reader published a long and really informative article (the reporter's name is Geoff Bouvier) about the changes taking place at the U.S.-Mexico border around San Diego. Although there is a lot of interesting stuff, one point in particular caught my attention. Time and time again, U.S. policies create unintended and unfortunately unforeseen consequences. In this case, a reinforced border wall, expanded Border Patrol, and technological gizmos were supposed to deter would-be migrants from crossing.

So what was the effect? Here is a quote from an ICE official:

“Since Gatekeeper began, the smuggling has become a lot more organized,” Rogers says. “Where there used to be a lot of mom-and-pop organizations or a lot of people who would come up to the border and wait around and then just jump the fence and try — and maybe even try four or five times before they’d get through — they can’t do that anymore now. There’s double layers of fencing and lights and cameras and helicopters and Border Patrol agents on motorcycles and ATVs and horses. There’s so much infrastructure built up along the border now, we’ve kind of interrupted that migratory pattern where someone would come up and work for a couple of months and buy up a bunch of furniture and TVs and take them back south after the picking season, and then they’d come back up after the holidays. But that doesn’t happen anymore because we have so much organization now. But that’s also caused the smugglers to get a lot more organized. And now we’re seeing the drug cartels getting involved. They’ve noticed that the price for smuggling aliens has increased to the point that it’s pretty lucrative now. So the drug cartels are starting to charge these smuggling organizations a fee or a tax to work in their areas.”

The policy has created the potential for immense profit, and thereby contributed to violence and other associated problems.

And does the wall stop people from trying? Nope.

Hopeful Mexicans will try to go over, under, or through the mesh fence. Panels of it are riddled with patches where cuts were made, areas near it show signs of digging, and Renteria explains that ladders are jerry-built with rebar poles to go over the top, despite the risk of injury from the concertina wire.


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