People attempting to illegally cross from Mexico into any state along the U.S. border don’t face great odds: They’re unsuccessful 55 to 85 percent the time, according to a report released last week by the Office of Immigration Statistics. Those numbers are up from 10 years ago, suggesting that increased efforts to secure the border are paying off.
And while the report leaves some questions unanswered – due partly to the fact that it’s difficult to measure the people who get away – it analyzes a variety of measures, including the number of migrants who are stopped, turned back or hire a smuggler.
The findings don’t surprise Victor Clark-Alfaro, a lecturer at San Diego State and director of Tijuana’s Binational Center for Human Rights. But for Alfaro, the report sidesteps an important piece of context: Research indicates more Mexicans left the United States than came to it over much of the same time period.
Alfaro was born in Tijuana, and has lectured at SDSU for more than 20 years. In 1987, he started doing field work with smugglers because, as he puts it, he wanted to learn about the border from its true experts – those who actually cross it.
“When I want to know something about migration, I don’t talk to my colleagues in the U.S. I talk to the experts: human smugglers. They have a lot information. They don’t have scientific information, but they have a lot of knowledge on the issue. They are my teachers, my professors,” Alfaro said.
Alfaro said he’s learned so much from smugglers, or coyotes, that he could probably bring people across the border himself.