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Illegal immigration and enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico border; an overview


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  • Pia M. Orrenius


Illegal Mexico-U.S. migration has increased dramatically in recent decades. In this article, Pia Orrenius evaluates the causes of this migration and gives an overview of the enforcement and policy responses to date. Orrenius assesses the effectiveness of border enforcement by looking at developments in the smuggling industry, such a smuggler use rates and fees, as well as changes in border-crossing sites. The findings suggest early attempts at enforcement fueled an increase in the demand of and supply of smugglers, with no rise in prices. Only the most recent enforcement initiatives, most significantly Operations Hold-the-Line and Gatekeeper, have been successful in reversing the thirty-year decline in smugglers' fees and moving migrants to remote crossing points. Risks have risen along with smugglers' fees, as reflected in an increasing number of crossing-related deaths since 1995. Orrenius concludes that Mexican and U.S. policymakers should consider a bilateral labor and migration agreement.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas in its journal Economic and Financial Policy Review.

Volume (Year): (2001)
Issue (Month): Q I ()
Pages: 2-11

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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedder:y:2001:i:qi:p:2-11

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Keywords: Labor supply ; Employment (Economic theory);


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  1. Gordon H. Hanson & Raymond Robertson & Antonio Spilimbergo, 2002. "Does Border Enforcement Protect U.S. Workers From Illegal Immigration?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(1), pages 73-92, February.
  2. Rosenblum, Marc R., 2000. "U.S. IMMIGRATION POLICY: Unilateral and Cooperative Responses to Undocumented Migration," Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, Working Paper Series qt4kv9554b, Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, University of California.
  3. Sherrie Kossoudji, 1992. "Playing Cat and Mouse at the U.S.-Mexican Border," Demography, Springer, vol. 29(2), pages 159-180, May.
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Cited by:
  1. Bandyopadhyay, Subhayu & Takashima, Ryo, 2005. "Trade Policy and Illegal Immigration," IZA Discussion Papers 1568, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Pia M. Orrenius & Madeline Zavodny & Leslie Lukens, 2008. "Why stop there? Mexican migration to the U.S. border region," Working Papers 0803, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
  3. Amuedo-Dorantes, Catalina & Puttitanun, Thitima & Martinez-Donate, Ana, 2013. "How Do Tougher Immigration Measures Impact Unauthorized Immigrants?," IZA Discussion Papers 7134, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Amin, Mohammad & Mattoo, Aaditya, 2006. "Can guest worker schemes reduce illegal migration ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3828, The World Bank.
  5. ?gel Solano Garc?, 2004. "Does illegal immigration empower rightist parties?," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 614.04, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
  6. Lilley, David & Boba, Rachel, 2009. "Crime reduction outcomes associated with the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program," Journal of Criminal Justice, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 217-224, May.


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