FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Arrests and deportation from the United States largely
isn’t effective in keeping Mexican nationals from wanting to re-enter the
country, particularly those who consider the United States their home, a study
released Thursday by the University of Arizona found.
A team of researchers from the school’s Center for Latin American Studies
interviewed more than 1,100 people in Mexico within a month of their most recent
deportation between 2010 and 2012. More than 60 percent said they wouldn’t
attempt another crossing within a week, but 56 percent said they would do so in
the near future.
The desire to return to the United States comes despite reports from those
surveyed of grueling walks through the desert, danger and violence, abuse,
incurring debt and losing material possessions, said Jeremy Slack, one of the
study’s principal investigators. Those interviewed had a median household income
of $280 a month before setting out for the United States from Mexico, and more
than 40 percent reported being the sole provider for their household.
“That’s a huge testament of people’s will power,” Slack said.
The study was released a day after a bipartisan group of U.S. senators crafting
a sweeping immigration bill visited the U.S.-Mexico border. The group said it
would be ready to unveil the bill aimed at securing the border and putting 11
million illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship when Congress reconvenes in
less than two weeks.
Slack said the debate should include ways to keep families together or reunite
them, although he acknowledged that might not be popular politically.
“This isn’t necessarily a facts-based debate,” Slack said. “This is an
emotional one. Because of that, there might be a lot of ways our work won’t
contribute. But perhaps to people who are trying to be more open or challenge
some of those assumptions, this work can be very useful and very helpful.”
Half of the survey’s respondents had at least one family member who is a U.S.
citizen, and one-fourth had a child under age 18 who was born in the United
States. Almost half of the respondents intended to make the U.S. their permanent
home following their last border crossing, and 28 percent said the United States
was their home.
Most of those surveyed previously had crossed the border or attempted to, and
nearly three-fourths used a paid guide to do so. They spent an average of two
days walking through the desert, with about a third of them running out of food
The U.S. Border Patrol detained about two-thirds of them on their most recent
journey into the United States, while the rest of them made it to their
destination but later were picked up by authorities, the study said. Most
interviewees said they were treated with some level of respect by Border Patrol
agents and were happy to be saved when they were lost in the desert.
The researchers interviewed people who were at least 18 years old at ports of
entry or shelters after they were returned to Mexico.