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September 2002, Volume 9, Number 9

Mexico-US Migration

Journalist Joseph Nevins's Operation Gatekeeper: The Rise of the 'Illegal Alien' and the Making of the U.S.-Mexico Boundary argues that sharply increased federal spending to get "control" of the Mexico-US border has failed. Nevins argues that Operation Gatekeeper, the name most often associated with the October 1994 policy of deterring rather than apprehending unauthorized foreigners, was a response to the November 1994 approval of Proposition 187 in California. In reality, it was an expansion of a policy first developed by now Rep Silvester Reyes (D-TX) to deter unauthorized migration between Juarez and El Paso.

Political scientist Peter Andreas in Border Games argues that the U.S border with Mexico is no more threatened now than in the past, but the US has focused more on the border because of fears of losing jobs to migrants, and their increased demand for social services. In addition, a focus on law and order, and the lawlessness involved in smuggling migrants, has prompted many to argue that the border must be brought under control. Andreas emphasizes that border controls aim to reduce the supply of unauthorized migrants and illegal drugs; enforcing employer sanctions and drug laws would aim at reducing demand.

Sociologist Vila, who lived in El Paso in the 1990s, describes the ways in which residents of El Paso and Cuidad Juarez identity themselves, and distinguish themselves from "others," such as Mexican Americans distinguishing themselves from Mexicans.

The eight-chapter book by Clement, was written by authors from Canada, Mexico, and the US, and explores the theoretical, historical and political background of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The five-part, 20 chapter Both Sides of the Border Transboundary Environmental Management Issues Facing Mexico and the United States edited by Fernandez and Carson examines water, air, and biological issues along the 2000-mile Mexico-US border. Part 2 deals with the estimated 12 million people living within 100 miles of the border, on both sides. The border community is asymmetrical-the Mexican side is one of the richest parts of Mexico, and the US side is one of the poorest parts of the US, with the exception of San Diego. The border-area population is growing rapidly, and Mexican cities have not done a good job providing housing, water and wastewater, and other infrastructure for new residents.

One chapter profiles colonias in Dona Ana county, New Mexico, an area in which unincorporated settlements developed without infrastructure to provide housing for farm workers; an increasing percentage of seasonal workers commute via El Paso to southern New Mexico. Colonias are border-area developments in which lots were sold without access to water, sewers or electricity; buyers did not obtain title to the land until they paid off the lot. In Texas, where an estimated 400,000 people live in colonias, voters approved Proposition 2 in November 2001, which will channel $175 million toward improving streets and drains and toward building sidewalks in colonias. According to the Census, nine of the 10 poorest U.S. communities of 1,000 households or more are colonias and other immigrant settlements near the Mexican border; the poorest has an average per capita income of $4,100.

A chapter focusing on agriculture notes that the border area is not a major farm production center for either Mexico or the US, and that water constraints may shrink agriculture in the areas where it is most developed, such as the Imperial Valley of California.

Fernandez, Linda and Richard Carson. Eds. 2002. Both Sides of the Border Transboundary Environmental Management Issues Facing Mexico and the United States. Kluwer Academic Publications. Peters, Enrique Dussel. 2000. Polarizing Mexico: The Impact of Liberalization Strategy. Boulder. Lynne Rienner. Clement, Norris C., Gustavo del Castillo Vera, James Gerber, William A. Kerr, Alan J. MacFadyen, Stanford Shedd, Eduardo Zepeda, and Diana Alarcón. 1999. North American Economic Integration. Theory and Practice. Nevins, Joseph. 2001. Operation Gatekeeper: The Rise of the 'Illegal Alien' and the Making of the U.S.-Mexico Boundary. Routledge. Andreas, Peter. 2001. Border Games: Policing the U.S.-Mexico Divide. Cornell University Press. Vila, Pablo. 2000. Crossing Borders, Reinforcing Borders. Social Categories, Metaphors and Narrative Identities on the U.S.-Mexico Frontier. Univ of Texas Press.