WASHINGTON – The nation’s current immigration policy is breaking up families and not deterring repeat border crossers, according to a University of Arizona study, which called for those factors to be addressed in any immigration reform.
The report, released Thursday, was based on interviews with more than 1,100 illegal immigrants deported to Mexico over the last six years. It said nearly a quarter of the deportees have children in the United States who are citizens, and more than a third see the U.S. as their home.
Of those, 70 percent said they planned to return, the report said.
“Despite all this build-up of security enforcement programs, people are still intending to return,” said Jeremy Slack, one of the project leaders, at the release of the report.
Researchers conducted hour-long interviews with people all along the U.S. border in Mexico, within a month of their deportation.
Nearly 75 percent of those interviewed said they lived or worked in the United States, and the median time spent here was seven years.
Of those interviewed for the report, 83 percent had previously crossed or attempted to cross the border. They said they walked an average of two days in the desert, with 39 percent saying they ran out of water and 31 percent saying they ran out of food.
Not all were treated well once they were here: The report said 24 percent of those interviewed worked for less than minimum wage and 17 percent said they were blackmailed or threatened with deportation.
Still, they want to come back to the U.S. because they have roots here, including children, jobs and homes. That has made family reunification a primary draw for Mexicans re-crossing the border, the report concluded, not just the search for work.
While reform of the guest-worker program is needed, Slack said it alone will not be sufficient to deter illegal immigration, given long-term motivations of border crossers.
“The idea that you can make immigration reform with just a big guest worker program is about 10 or 15 years too late,” Slack said.
Immigration advocates said the report shows the motivation for border crossing has shifted from purely financial to family concerns.
But one advocate of get-tough reform said the reasons don’t excuse the fact that undocumented immigrants are still breaking the law.
“The reason that we have immigration laws is because we understand that what might be in the individual interest of somebody in another country doesn’t necessarily serve the interests of this country,” said Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
Muzaffar Chishti, director of the Migration Policy Institute office at the New York University School of Law, said the U.S. policy of removal has been helped in the past by the recession, which made it less attractive to cross the border illegally.
Discouraging illegal immigration is more difficult when border crossers are trying to get back to families and homes, he said.
“In the past they would just come because they were desperate to get jobs,” Chishti said. “Now it seems … the people who really make the extra effort to come are people who are coming here to be with their families.”
That is why family reunification must be one leg on the “three-legged stool” of comprehensive immigration reform, he said.
“It’s a huge injury, it’s really a harm to the kids who are left behind,” Chishti said of deportations that split up families. “That’s clearly something to be concerned about.”
- The virus that keeps head and neck cancers on the rise
- State Fair ‘Kid Reporter’ has all the angles covered
- 4 important things to know about timeshare maintenance fees
- Signs of delayed car crash injuries
- The truth about sports concussions
- The Alzheimer's epidemic: Facts you need to know
- The season is here, keep your Fantasy Football team strong all season
- 8 TV shows you can't miss this fall
- Football is here: 6 tips to make this your best season ever
- Gameday recipes and beers to match
- 6 reasons the Cardinals are driven to win the Super Bowl
- The Pac-12 football season nears kickoff
- Tips to get ready for a pain-free golf season
- Protect your family with these 7 home security features
- How to train like an Olympic swimmer
- 2016 Olympics: A guide to must-see TV events
- The bride's guide to feeling your best on your wedding day
- Deciding when you need knee surgery
- Celebrating Fourth of July is much cooler in these AZ towns
- Top ten road trip bathrooms in America
- Six things causing a pain in your neck
- 5 things to make your summer move easier
- Three elements of a strong timeshare exit guarantee
- Stretches and exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome
- The best Major League ballparks have their own personality
- Comparing the best regular seasons: The '96 Bulls and '16 Warriors
- 3 Arizona road trips and the vehicles to get you there
- Colon cancer is preventable. Check these signs and symptoms to stay healthy.
- 6 of the biggest skin cancer myths
- Affordable small home makeover ideas