Monday, July 20, 2015

The Fiscal Cost of Protecting the Border

As Chapters 10 and 13 discuss, the US has spent literally billions of dollars protecting the US border. On the southern US border, we witnessed several different variations of the ‘fence’, which are pictured below.  Some of them are very tall and nearly impassible (which are located near large urban centers), while others (in more remote areas) represent only a marker of the border and would be extremely easy to cross.  Our ride-along with the US Border Patrol highlighted how the fence is mostly symbolic- that if people (migrants, drug smugglers, human traffickers) really want to get across it, they can.  In fact, we saw a section of the fence that was cut and then patched up by border patrol, indicating just how easy it is to get through much of the fencing.  However, technology is doing most of the work in protecting the US-Mexico border.  The Department of Homeland Security is employing video surveillance, drones, and motion sensors as their primary line of defense, along with 21,000 border patrol agents in 2014 (up from 4,000 in 1992, according to the US Customs and Border Protection website). The cost of this protection is $3.6 billion in recent years.  The technology exists along the border, but also in the interior with border checkpoints sometimes several miles away from the actual border.  A recent book entitled Border Patrol Nation  by Todd Miller discusses recent trends in border militarization. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Border Economies

In our trip to the US-Mexico border, we spent four days in El Paso, Texas and Cuidad Juárez, Mexico. Effectively, El Paso and Juárez constitute one large city split by the border fence, where people move between the two cities going about their daily lives.  Many people live on one side of the border and (legally) work on the other side.  Families are spread across the two cities (and hence the two countries). Mexicans living in Juárez regularly come to El Paso to shop.  Dollars are widely accepted in Juárez, and both cities are bilingual.  There are several bridges in which people can walk across to the other country (but still have to go through border security).  Border patrol is present throughout both cities.   The El Paso-Juárez sector epitomizes a border economy, with goods, services and people flowing across the border each direction throughout the day. On our drive through Juárez, we saw literally dozens of maquiladoras (often referred to as maquilas) –  huge manufacturing plants set up by US corporations (Boeing, Lexmark, and Electrolux to name a few) to take advantage of lower wages in Mexico (maquilas became prevalent as the result of North American Free Trade Agreement established in 1992).   As Chapter 9 discusses, immigration between countries can have important impacts on international trade, product diversity, and the price of goods and services in each country.  This is exactly the case in El Paso and Juárez.     

Monday, July 6, 2015

Trip to US-Mexico Border

A few weeks ago, Cynthia and I took a week-long trip to visit the US-Mexico border. We started in El Paso, Texas (which borders with Juarez, Mexico), visited Nogales, Mexico and ended in Tucson, Arizona. Below is a map of the route we followed.  It was an amazing trip – we participated in a border patrol ride-along in El Paso, visited nonprofit organizations in Juarez and Nogales that worked with migrant communities, walked on a migrant trail in the Sonora desert near Tucson, and saw a naturalization ceremony.  The goal of the trip was to get a real sense of the migrant experience, to witness the militarization of the border, and to better understand the humanitarian crisis taking along the southern US border.  We will write a few blog posts in the next few weeks that document different aspects of our trip as they relate to themes in the textbook.  One of our colleagues on the trip created a storify of our trip, which you can find here.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Undocumented immigrants and credit markets

Undocumented, or illegal, immigrants face a number of obstacles to economic success in the host country. Not having "papers" not only makes it more difficult to find a job, it also makes it more difficult to access financial services, from opening a bank account to taking out a loan. A paper by Nathalie Martin, "Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due," explores how undocumented immigrants in the US use--or don't use--banks and credit.