Monday, November 14, 2011

Migration and Immigration

Note: I just spent 10 days in the Tucson, AZ area learning about and experiencing issues along the Mexico/US border. Several of these next entries will be related to these experiences.

The increased security on the US/Mexico border has contributed to some long term issues inside America in terms of undocumented Mexican workers. For many years now there has been a pattern of Mexican migrant workers entering the United States illegally to look for work. Their intent is to come to the US for a job to earn enough money to send/take home to provide for a better life for their families. Most of the work that can be found are in areas that many Americans can not or will not work. Often these migrant workers take jobs picking crops, working in meat packing plants, or in housekeeping related activities. These jobs offer a better wage than can be earned in Mexico, but at a cost to American employers which is deemed favorable as often these positions include very little in the way of benefits. The American demand for cheap unskilled labor leaves a place for a Mexican migrant to become employed.

While many of these workers enter the country illegally, they plan to stay for only a short time. Their goal is to earn enough to return home and care for their families. Yet with the tightening of the security along the border and a more aggressive pursuit of these undocumented workers by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a curios side affect is taking place. Many of these workers who originally intended to stay for a short while are deciding to remain in the country rather than risk crossing and re-crossing the border.

This crossing is an ordeal in itself. Because of this tightening security along the border many would be migrants are moving further west to cross the border in places where border patrols are thin or in areas too rugged for immediate access. Near Tucson, AZ many migrants will cross through desert territory in their quest for the American dream. This usually means a 3-7 day journey on foot across treacherous territory. Temperatures rise to up to 115 degrees during the day. Sources for water are scarce. Coyotes, rattle snakes, scorpions, and other wildlife add to the danger of such crossings. And border patrol agents search actively for undocumented workers. Being apprehended means at best a return to the Mexican border and at worst a time in an American jail before being returned to Mexico but with a American criminal record.

As difficult as these crossing become, many undocumented workers now are opting to remain in this country rather than risk the dangers of crossing into Mexico and back. Being established in a community helps them set roots and the guarantee of future work compels them to remain. Rather than split their families up permanently, many are now seeking re-unification in America and often at the expense of further undocumented countries.

Following this line, it reveals that our attempt to secure our border with Mexico may not be accomplishing the task of limiting migration and immigration from Mexico. In some ways this enforcement is actually contributing to increased numbers of undocumented immigrants in our nation.

I recognize that this view does not provide a solution to the issue of migration/immigration/and the desire for cheap unskilled labor in America. In our conversation with leaders of humanitarian and government agencies, we heard very few proposed solutions to this dilemma. What is important is for those groups in this area to begin addressing the unforseen problems raised by increased border security so that a full informed viewpoint can be developed.