In the Shadow of the Wall: Family Separation, Immigration Enforcement and Security
The Center for Latin American Studies, University of Arizona, March 2013
21 Pages Posted: 20 Jul 2015
Date Written: March 1, 2013
The current debates about immigration reform have centered on increasing border and immigration enforcement, creating a guest worker program, and providing a path to citizenship for people who came to the United States as children. Our years conducting research and interviewing deportees along the border have resulted in a powerful new set of data on migration and immigration enforcement that calls into question just what people mean by a secure border. In this brief report, we outline some of the preliminary findings of our research that show the consequences of a broken immigration system, as well as a discussion of the impacts of current enforcement practices. Border enforcement practices have long operated behind a veil of silence and often behind closed doors. Our goal is to explain with precision how these programs work in order to evaluate what elements would constitute border security and an effective immigration system.
This report will help us first understand who is being deported, and in particular their family connections to the United States, then provides descriptions of the violence inherent in crossing the border. After discussing what it is like to cross the border, we follow by discussing labor conditions in the United States and the exploitation of undocumented migrants. In the next sections we analyze people’s experiences with U.S. authorities, particularly issues related to due process, abuses at the hands of U.S. authorities, and specific programs related to enforcement, namely, Operation Streamline, immigration detention, the Alien Transfer and Exit Program (ATEP) and Secure Communities.
Our data collected in a second wave of surveys as part of the Migrant Border Crossing Study (MBCS), highlight the violence and other severe human traumas created by the absence of a functional immigration system in the United States. The data also show that border enforcement is a complicated process consisting of numerous removal programs. We must ask which types of enforcement are appropriate and which programs fail to achieve their stated goals. In this report we provide information with a high level of social scientific reliability and validity, using an unbiased sampling method (random interviewees rather than assembled complaints), interviewers who were neither government officials or activists, and non-loaded questions that consider a wide range of potential experiences. The findings thus have particular value for public discussion of border and immigration issues.
Keywords: unauthorized migration, border crossing, deportation, family seperation, immigration reform
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