News Column

Mexican Deportees Just Come Back Again: Study

March 29, 2013

Perla Trevizo

Most Mexicans deported from the United States will keep trying to re-enter the country regardless of the penalties they face, a new University of Arizona-led study says.

"People have strong ties to the U.S.," said Daniel Martinez, one of the study's main investigators and an assistant professor of sociology at George Washington University.

"Regardless of the mode of removal, they are going to try again," Martinez said through a video news conference from Washington Thursday.

From 2010 to 2012, a binational group of researchers interviewed more than 1,000 Mexican nationals who had been deported to six Mexican cities, including Nogales.

More than half of those surveyed said they were going to try to cross again. The figure rises to 70 percent when counting only those who consider the United States home.

The portrait of the average illegal immigrant had been that of seasonal laborers and young single men with no real ties to the United States. But as enforcement and the cost of crossing illegally has increased, experts say many have decided to build their lives here instead of going back and forth.

Among those who were interviewed, one-fourth said they had U.S.-born children and 28 percent considered the United States home.

As lawmakers continue to debate what should be in an immigration reform bill, a guest-worker program and more highly skilled immigrants have gained consensus, but Martinez said it's time to think outside the box.

"We need to look at the root causes of immigration to really understand," he said. Seeing a guest-worker program as the only solution is 10 to 15 years too late.

And "high-skilled immigration is an important component of immigration reform, but what's missing from the current debate is the issue of family values," Scott Whiteford, professor at the Center for Latin American Studies, said at the UA news conference.

The Border Patrol shifted to a "consequence delivery system" in 2011, where basically illegal immigrants are put through different programs with the goal that they won't try to cross again.

As a result, Customs and Border Protection officials have said, the recidivism rate along the Southwest border dropped from 24 percent in fiscal year 2010 to 17 percent in 2012.

But Jeremy Slack, also an author of the study and a doctoral student at the UA, said programs like Operation Streamline or lateral repatriation, in which people are dropped off at a different location from where they initially crossed, are not having the desired effect.

"The only thing it does is put people in harm's way," he said. "It separates groups and sends them to places like Tamaulipas and Coahuila, which are extremely dangerous."

Researchers also highlighted what they called "systematic abuses" by U.S. authorities.

About 10 percent of respondents said they had been physically abused by U.S. authorities, which researchers said is consistent with recent reports by groups such as No More Deaths and the Kino Border Initiative.

CBP did not respond to a request for comment, but in the past officials have said agents are required to treat all of those they encounter with respect and dignity, and to make every effort to make sure people in their custody are given the attention they need.

The issue deserves further attention because more than 400,000 people were deported to Mexico in 2011, Martinez said.

"Funds to the border should go towards oversight and accountability," he said.


-- From 2010-12, about 60 researchers from both sides of the border interviewed 1,113 Mexican nationals who had been deported to Tijuana, Mexicali, Nogales, Juarez, Nuevo Laredo and Mexico City.

-- They were given a 250-question survey and a face-to-face interview that lasted about 45 minutes.

By the numbers

31 -- average age of the deportee

$280 -- average monthly income before trying to cross into the U.S.

74% -- had previously lived or worked in the U.S.

Seven -- the median number of years the deportees had spent in the U.S.

25% -- had a U.S.-born child

Source: "In the Shadow of the Wall: Family Separation, Immigration Enforcement and Security" by the University of Arizona.

Source: (c)2013 The Arizona Daily Star (Tucson, Ariz.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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