Border Patrol

The U.S. government has increased its spending on border enforcement, in order to mediate the persisting problem of illegal immigration from Mexico. In addition to the increased spending of $10 billion more per year on border enforcement, the government also spent tons of money creating a fence across the border, which has had little effect in decreasing the number of unauthorized immigrants who come into the U.S. In fact, the fence has created a greater problem, because it funnels the migration streams from Mexico and Latin America into more dangerous points of entry. Many activists groups have been established in order to address the many problems concerning human rights violations along the border.

A political science professor interviewed over 1,000 migrants in an effort to highlight the impacts of border enforcement on migrants. In his study, Cornelius (2006) found that heightened border enforcement does not discourage immigrants from migrating. Often, the migrants keep trying to cross until they finally succeed. More migrants have begun hiring smugglers–which cost anywhere between $2,000 and $3,000 per person–in an effort to ensure safer crossings.

There is a large discussion suggesting the need for reform because of the re-direction of immigrants into more dangerous terrain, which causes more deaths. In addition, the detention facilities in which immigrants are held are often lacking in their ability to provide adequate food and access to medical care. There have also been reports of physical and sexual abuse in the detention facilities. Castillo (2011) discussed the different testimonies reported by No More Deaths, a humanitarian organization in Arizona whose mission is to end the deaths and mistreatment on the U.S.-Mexico border, and to make the public aware of what is happening there. In addition, members of the organization wish to encourage more humane immigration policies and want to see a reform of the current legislation. Castillo (2011) found that many immigrants who are held by Border Patrol are denied food and water, even if they are clearly dehydrated, and are subject to extreme hot and cold conditions, sleep deprivation, death threats, and psychological abuse. At times, some immigrants were unable to retrieve all of their personal belongings upon departure. Also, there were reports that children were often split from their parents and deported separately, which is very unjust, especially when taking in consideration the trauma that children must already be suffering, only to then be separated from a source of comfort – their parents. In addition, racial profiling and harassment are common along the border.

Other organizations that defend basic human and civil rights are the Border Network for Human Rights in El Paso and Derechos Humanos In Arizona. Both organizations hope to correct misinformation through informative demonstrations and marches. Isabel Garcia, founder of Derechos Humanos, stated that “lies about immigrants prevent any real justice.” Others suggest changes in U.S. immigration policy that could decrease the U.S.-Mexico conflict. For example, Cornelius (2006) proposes that we should legalize the immigrants who are here, therefore providing them an option for upward mobility. Also, he suggested that perhaps the U.S. government could grant temporary worker options, which has the potential to decrease illegal entries. It is clear that there is a need for reform and that these conflicts should be made aware to the public.


Castillo, Mariano. 2011. “Report: Border Patrol abuses widespread.” Retrieved May 14, 2012 (

Cornelius, Wayne A. 2006. Impacts of Border Enforcement on Unauthorized Mexican Migration to the United States. Border Battles: The U.S. Immigration Debates. Retrieved April 10, 2012 (

Detention Watch Network. 2012. “Border Enforcement and Short-Term Detention.” Retrieved May 14, 2012 (

Children and Human Rights Violations in Border Enforcement

In the 1980’s and 1990’s, as a result of political, armed struggle in Central America, the United States experienced a dramatic increase in undocumented, unaccompanied youth immigration (Byrne 2008:9). Most of these immigrant youth crossed the Mexico-United States border (Vera 2008:10). Migration has continued as a result of armed violence and poor economic conditions in Mexico and Central America. The now-defunct Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) would once detain unaccompanied immigrant minors. Prior to 1984, these youth were processed relatively efficiently and usually released to “a responsible adult” before immigration court proceedings (Navarro 1998:591-592). This meant that unaccompanied, immigrant youth could be released to the care of foster homes or other charitable organizations.

Yet, after 1984, the INS instituted new restrictions — unaccompanied, undocumented youth could only be released to “a parent of lawful guardian” (Navarro 1998:592). The Supreme Court supported the INS’s restrictions in Reno v. Flores (Navarro 1998:597). Because many immigrant children and youth did not have family in the United States, most were shunted off to detention facilities, the conditions of which were often extremely poor.
With the passage of the Homeland Security Act in 2002, undocumented (and unaccompanied) youth now fall under the responsibility of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) (Byrne 2008:9). The DHS goes through a process to determine whether or not the immigrant is under the age of 18 and unaccompanied (Byrne 2008:18).

Most sources claim that conditions have greatly improved since the ORR has taken responsibility for undocumented, unaccompanied youth. These sources cite improved conditions, the use of low-security facilities and the availability of foster care as positive changes.

Yet the DHS’s priorities — national/homeland security — conflict with the ORR’s priorities — immigrant youth welfare. The DHS aims to apprehend and remove unaccompanied immigrant youth from the United States (Lopez 2010:23-24). On average, “over 7,200 unaccompanied immigrant children [are] detained by the U.S. each year” (Lopez 2010:6). Immigration agencies under the DHS may detain these children and youth on the Mexico-U.S. border or within the borders of the United States. Because the federal government of the United States has made a clear shift of its priorities toward “national security,” child welfare is often curtailed at the border.

Many children and youth who have have first-hand experiences with U.S. Border Patrol report severe abuses, including but not limited to: physical abuse, handcuffing, starvation, dehydration, cramped and uncomfortable conditions and refusal of youth’s requests for medical treatment (Byrne 2008:9).

Currently, the federal government of the United States is also pushing to privatize many immigration detention centers (Lopez 2010:39). Doing so reduces expenses and the burden of responsibility on the government’s part. However, privatization means that corporations can outright discard the federal government’s protective policies in favor of efficiency, which often means an increase in child abuse.

The repatriation of undocumented immigrant youth is another area of U.S. immigration policy that deserves attention. In repatriating immigrant youth (returning immigrant youth to their home countries), the DHS often reintroduce youth to dangerous conditions including, but not limited to, increases in poverty and violence, and homelessness (Thompson 2008:55). For repatriated immigrant youth, there is also a significantly higher risk of being subjected to human trafficking, commonly for labor or sex (Thompson 2008:53).


Byrne, Olga. 2008. Unaccompanied Children in the United States: A Literature Review.     New York: Vera Institute of Justice.

Lopez, Alejandra. 2010. “Seeking ‘Alternatives to Detention’: Unaccompanied     Immigrant Children in the U.S. Immigration System.” Honors College Theses.     Paper 97.

Navarro, Lisa Rodriquez. 1998. “An analysis of Treatment of Unaccompanied Immigrant     and Refugee Children in INS Detention and other forms of Institutionalized     Custody.”

Thompson, Amy. 2008. A Child Alone and Without Papers: A report on the return and     repatriation of unaccompanied undocumented children by the United States.     Austin, TX: Center for Public Policy Priorities.