Detainees were most likely to attempt the grueling and often deadly crossing again if they had friends or relatives in the U.S., had a job, or had more education than other detainees. About 51 percent of migrants said they already had a job waiting for them in the U.S. Many — 13 percent — considered the U.S. to be their home.
Illegal border crossings have dropped in recent years. However, the change seems more related to the weakened state of the American economy than to aggressive border control efforts alone. Another study from the University of Arizona found that tougher security has actually backfired and encouraged more permanent migration.
Republicans recently voted to increase the already lavish spending on border security by tens of billions of dollars. But the University of Arizona report suggests that, while detainees noticed tougher immigration laws and a heavier deployment of Border Patrol agents, they remained undeterred. “Regardless of the consequences and dangers of crossing, however, many detainees remarked that the need to come to the United States is greater than any deterrent,” the report notes.
Undocumented immigrants endure risky crossings to take jobs that often exploit their immigration status to make them work long hours in dangerous conditions for little pay. Detainees like those interviewed in the report are often beaten by guards, regularly denied health care, forced to sit in solitary confinement for weeks, and used as unpaid manual labor. Yet even the plethora of abuses are not enough to make immigrants “self-deport” as certain Republican lawmakers have hypothesized — especially when they have already put down roots in the U.S.