Jan 012011

An interesting recent Salem-News.com article summarizes the effects on the migration landscape of the city of Tijuana, Baja California, of the USA’s imposition of tighter border controls, including walls, fences and helicopter patrols.

There is no question that the economic downturn since 2008 and toughened border controls have reduced the number of migrants entering the USA. However, this has channeled the most determined would-be migrants into more challenging (and often more dangerous) options. It has also pushed the costs up. Twenty years ago, a few hundred dollars was probably sufficient to enlist the help of a “pollero” to cross the border undetected. Today, border gangs want several thousand dollars from each undocumented migrant who seeks their assistance.

Three favored options for crossing the border:

  • pay a smuggling gang $2,000 – $3,000 for a trip across the desert or mountains between Mexicali and Arizona.
  • pay up to $7,000 for a trip through one of the narco-tunnels (used mainly by drug smugglers)
  • pay up to $8,000 for a place on a high-speed boat leaving from Rosarito Beach and landing somewhere on the California coastline
  • the alternative is a dangerous solo hike across desert or mountains, through areas where many migrants have lost their lives.

Border security changes have had some major effects on Tijuana:

  • many migrants are unable to cross, swelling the numbers of poorly skilled workers in the Tijuana workforce. With insufficient formal sector jobs for all these workers, many enter the murky worlds of pornography, drug trafficking and the sex trade.
  • those unable to migrate tend to live in Tijuana’s lowest-income neighborhoods such as Valle Verde, Obrera, Lomas Taurinas, La Esperanza, El Niño and La Morita, which are growing very rapidly
  • more power has been gained by the organized gangs of traffickers, since they are the only ones with the resources to help undocumented migrants attempt to cross the border

Previous posts related to Mexican migrants in the USA:

Migration between Mexico and the USA is the focus of chapter 25 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Ask your library to buy a copy of this handy reference guide to all aspects of Mexico’s geography today! Better yet, order your own copy…

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