JMHS ARTICLE: “Enemy Territory:” Immigration Enforcement in the US-Mexico Borderlands

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“Enemy Territory:” Immigration Enforcement in the US-Mexico Borderlands

Walter A. Ewing, American Immigration Council

For the last two decades, immigration enforcement along the US-Mexico border has been based on the strategy of “prevention through deterrence,” which has been characterized by concentrated enforcement personnel and resources directly along the border and expanded detention and deportation of unauthorized immigrants. Despite significant federal spending on enforcement, the number of unauthorized immigrants living in the United States has tripled since the strategy was introduced in the 1990s. “Prevention through deterrence” has also funneled more migrants into increasingly dangerous border crossing routes and resulted in enforcement excesses by Border Patrol agents. This paper traces the evolution of US border enforcement and recommends greater accountability of enforcement officials as well as shifting the focus of border security toward the apprehension of terrorists and the disruption of transnational criminal organizations. 

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