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


  • 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Pia M. Orrenius, 2001. "Illegal immigration and enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico border; an overview," Economic and Financial Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, issue Q I, pages 2-11.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedder:y:2001:i:qi:p:2-11

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Rosenblum, Marc R., 2000. "Policy Paper 55: 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.
    2. 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.
    3. Pia Orrenius, 2014. "Enforcement and illegal migration," IZA World of Labor, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), pages 1-81, June.
    4. repec:iza:izawol:journl:y:2014:p:81 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Sherrie Kossoudji, 1992. "Playing Cat and Mouse at the U.S.-Mexican Border," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 29(2), pages 159-180, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes & Kusum Mundra, 2007. "Social networks and their impact on the earnings of Mexican Migrants," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 44(4), pages 849-863, November.
    3. Gordon H. Hanson, 2006. "Illegal Migration from Mexico to the United States," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 44(4), pages 869-924, December.
    4. Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes & Fernando Lozano, 2015. "On The Effectiveness Of Sb1070 In Arizona," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 53(1), pages 335-351, January.
    5. Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes & Thitima Puttitanun & Ana Martinez-Donate, 2013. "How Do Tougher Immigration Measures Impact Unauthorized Immigrants?," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 1302, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
    6. Ramirez, Miguel D., 2003. "Mexico under NAFTA: a critical assessment," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 43(5), pages 863-892.
    7. Amin, Mohammad & Mattoo, Aaditya, 2006. "Can guest worker schemes reduce illegal migration ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3828, The World Bank.
    8. Subhayu Bandyopadhyay & Ryo Takashima, 2005. "Trade Policy and Illegal Immigration," Working Papers 05-04 Classification- JEL, Department of Economics, West Virginia University.
    9. ?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).
    10. Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes & Thitima Puttitanun & Ana Martinez-Donate, 2013. "How Do Tougher Immigration Measures Affect Unauthorized Immigrants?," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(3), pages 1067-1091, June.
    11. Orrenius, Pia M. & Zavodny, Madeline & Lukens, Leslie, 2008. "Why stop there? Mexican migration to the U.S. border region," Working Papers 0803, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
    12. Amuedo-Dorantes, Catalina & Pozo, Susan, 2014. "On the Intended and Unintended Consequences of Enhanced Border and Interior Immigration Enforcement: Evidence from Deportees," IZA Discussion Papers 8458, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).


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