A professor from Princeton University said at an event Wednesday that he thinks border control has failed as a policy, and the United States is using the Mexican border as a political symbol to exclude immigrants.
At the California Center of Population Research’s “Train Wreck: US Immigration and Border Policy 1965-2010” event, Doug Massey, a sociology and public affairs professor at Princeton University, said the federal government has spent billions of dollars to militarize the border in an effort to keep out undocumented individuals. He added limiting legal migration has increased undocumented immigration.
Massey said in the 1950s, temporary migrants traveled back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico, and many ended up settling in Los Angeles for the city’s job opportunities and proximity to the border. However, during the 1960s, Congress funded border protection rather than welfare programs to support immigrants, Massey said. People also spread rumors during the Cold War that communists used armies of Mexican immigrants to stir trouble for the U.S. government, he added.
After the U.S. capped the number of active visas to 20,000 per year in 1976 in the Western Hemisphere, legal opportunities for migrants vanished and undocumented arrests increased, Massey said.
“It was a disaster that unfolded in front of me,” he said. “The border has become a political symbol.”
Massey added he thinks the media politicized the issue of immigration, which led to national regulations that made it difficult for migrants to enter. He added government budgets for border protection grew exponentially over the years as lawmakers reduced social benefits for undocumented migrants.
Massey added the U.S. also increased border enforcement because of the Drug Enforcement Agency’s efforts to prohibit narcotic trade from Mexico and other Latin American countries.
He added the limited number of legal migration options to the United States has driven more undocumented individuals to cross the border. Since border protection has prevented many of those individuals from returning to their home countries, net migration has increased, he said.
Maria-Elena Young, a doctoral student in community health science, said she attended the event to learn how immigration policy could negatively affect individuals from underrepresented communities.
Uyen-Ly Nguyen, a fourth-year cognitive science student, said he thinks Massey’s presentation is timely given President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to build a wall along the Mexican border. Trump said Wednesday that a border wall must be included in any legislation that would protect undocumented individuals who arrived in the United States as children.