USA-Mexico Borderlands and Labor

The main component of national identity revolves around citizenship, defined culturally by common interests and legally by the laws that determine who can or cannot be a citizen. Throughout the history, immigration has been a complex demographic phenomenon. It is defined as the international transit of persons from their country of origin to settle in another country where they lack citizenship. Immigrants migrate to be permanent residents, search for employment, or to seek asylum for extreme cases such as war. Statistics from the United Nations estimate a population of 244,120,712 as immigrants as of 2016. The United States hosts the largest number of immigrants with a total of 19% of the immigrants. There are more than 40 million immigrants in the United States (Lecture 3). The socio-economic and political aspects of immigration have generated debate to the issue of immigrants and immigration. In the 1950s, about two-thirds of all immigrants who made their way into the United States originated from European continent and Canada. Today, the major countries contributing the highest number of immigrants are China, Mexico, Philippines, and most importantly Mexico. More than 11 million Mexican immigrants live in America. There is an ongoing debate of immigrants and immigration with regard to Mexico sending the highest number immigrants into the U.S. In this respect, this paper will discuss the social and economic effects of the U.S-Mexico cross-border immigration.


The American and Mexican border is associated with a long history. The border runs from Tijuana and California in the west to Texas in the east. It runs through six states in Mexico and four states in America. Globally, the border is the most regularly crossed international boundary. Every year, about 350 million authorized crossings are recorded. Around the mid-16th century, the discovery of natural resources including silver and coal made people from various areas to settle into the area. Up to the 19th century, the region did not belong to any nation. It was when Mexico gained independence that the border became defined. The Mexican government encouraged its people to settle in the area. When Texas was annexed by the U.S in 1845, it resulted in conflict, ultimately resulting in the Mexican-American War (Destination America). The war lasted for three years and it was halted by the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. Mexico lost about 55% of its national land to the US. Rio Grande River’s middle was agreed to be the current border between the two countries. In this regard, the borderlands are a unique region separate from both nations. The US-Mexico border evidences a long history of interaction between these two nations.

Treaties between the United States have contributed to the economies of both the United States and Mexico. According to the film movie Crossing Arizona, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed based on a bilateral spirit between Mexico and America. The treaty established a definite boundary between the two nations and the inhabitants of the regions were given citizenships. About 90% of them chose to relocate to the United States and were awarded full civil rights with American citizenships. The issuance of citizenships promoted trade between the two countries with the border’s Mexican side relying heavily on its nearness to America for commercial activities. Under Diaz’s administration, the economy of the border communities boomed because of the close relationship the Mexican president had with the U.S. By the early 20th century American companies controlled about 80% of the mines investing millions of dollars in Mexico, as well. The treaty’s preservation of peace led to the increased economic activities in the border region. To date, most people view Mexico as a country that relies more on the United States to conduct business.

Most of the positive things happening in Mexico are underreported. According to O’Neil (1-2), there are numerous films that portray Mexico as a dangerous and scary country, which is overrun by vicious drug lords. The movie Destination America shows the social problems including war and poverty resulted in the movement of people into the United States. Although the war on drugs is real, Mexico has undergone exceptional and under-publicized socio-economic transformation. Mexico has developed democratically offering its citizens greater opportunities, giving its people education to develop an upwardly-moving population that strives to work their way out of poverty resulting in the most stable middle class in southern American countries. Today, Mexico’s real story is one of ongoing social and economic transformation. What is often forgotten and overlooked is the positive side of Mexico in spite of the security challenges.

In this regard, the strong immigration enforcement at the border is a security issue. Most of the immigrants gaining access to either side of the countries may contribute to criminal behavior. The police patrols at the US-Mexican border are aimed at stemming the war on drugs (DeChaine 101). The apprehension of the undocumented immigrants serves as a way of ensuring that a county’s sovereignty is maintained. In the United States, the increased number of undocumented immigrants has significantly contributed to social problems such as crime. After the 9/11 bombings, the American government reorganized its national security apparatus including immigration laws. Today, any immigration policy touches on the issue of national security as crimes such as terrorism and drug dealing have become global epidemics. Ultimately, there is a need to prevent the escalation of criminal activities by stepping-up the police checks.

To prevent the increased crime levels at the U.S-Mexico borderland there are various ways law enforcers can locate undocumented persons for deportation (Crossing Arizona). First is by carrying workplace raids. Most of the illegal immigrants look for low paying jobs around the border area that is off the books implying that the employer does not record the illegal immigrants. Second, highway patrol checks and traffic stops may result in arrest of undocumented individuals. Next is when a suspect is booked in jail for deportation hearings. Also, when you are within hundred miles of the American one can be interviewed on their immigration status. Another way is intercepting illegal immigrants trying to cross the American border and returning them immediately. Lastly is to issue a removal order to an immigrant whose immigration court case has been rejected, possibly after various appeals.

The border land also experiences violence and structural racism. DeChaine (33) notes that borders have become cultural contestation and negotiation sites. There are immigration laws that requiring the policing of the border contributes to the problem of violence and structural racism. The manner in which immigration profiling is done and enforcement of immigration laws results in immigration-related violence. In the same way, the adjacent communities at the border lands discriminate each other in taking part in social development. However, societal racism is deeply embedded in the American culture compared to the Mexican culture. The life outcomes are viewed in the perspective of legal situation, race, and social status of an individual.  The immigration and immigrants have impacted in the social lives of people living on the borderlands (Senorita Extraviada).  The immigration policies that allows for institutional prejudice practices including ethno-racial profiling and ill-treatment contribute to structural racism and violence.

Throughout history one of the major driving forces of immigration is economic opportunity. In the movie Destination America, the search for economic prosperity was a major driving force that made people to immigrate into the United States. Based on the World Bank statistics, the United States is among the largest countries in the world and second largest based on the purchasing power parity. The country has a mixed economy maintaining a steady growth in the gross domestic product and a moderate unemployment rate at 4.9%. It explains why most immigrants including those from Mexico migrate to the US. They are drawn by the shimmering promise that the US has in order to get better lives as well as for their own survival. The country has a superior economy. However, I disagree with a study by Hanson, Robertson, and Spilimbergo (74) that investigated if border enforcement in the American territory protected the American workers in the U.S-Mexico border. It was found that border patrols had minimal effect on illegal immigration and also illegal immigrants from Mexico impacted very minimally on the American wages in the U.S border areas. It contradicts the reason why most people migrate into the US.

There are often disputes arising how the immigrants are perceived in borderland. The film Crossing Arizona illustrated the manner in which immigrants and migration have been viewed in America over time and resulting in the American government to heighten the security at the border. Illegal settlement in another country without authorization from the host nation is a criminal offense under the law. In this regard, the movie highlights the manner in which illegal immigrants were forced to cross illegally into the US through the Arizona desert. It can be seen that most of the illegal immigrants, especially men are going to search for work. This increase of immigrants has generated debate on human rights, culture, and labor. While the human rights groups fulfill their social duty of putting water stations for the dehydrating migrants who walk in temperatures exceeding 100OC, the government carries out border patrol swoops arresting the illegal migrants.

The US also contributed to Mexican economic problems. Following the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, the Mexican economy was flooded with American exports. This impacted negatively on the Mexican industries as their exports reduced. This means that they could not earn adequate foreign exchange from exports. Mexico does not have adequate infrastructure to compete with the United States (Harvest of Loneliness). The production deficits have made Mexico to rely mostly on the American exports.

The open border policy is good for the economy. It would make it easier for both countries to get workers for the respective countries economies. The free flow of people from one country to another would allow the border communities engage in economic activities in either side of each country (Lecture 6). I disagree with opponents of this policy because the checks actually are done as usual in spite of the movements. If goods are allowed to move on the North American Free Trade Agreement trade agreement, then it does not make sense restraining people.


In summary, the issue of immigration impacts on most countries across the globe. However, the borderlands between the United States and Mexico have impacted positively the social and economic environments. The benefits of the US-Mexico border including the promotion of economic activities creating job opportunities and goods for exchange outweigh the negative effects including structural racism and security threats.