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US-Mexican border security remains key issue
Improving security along the US-Mexico border will remain a challenge for the next US administration. Peter Chalk examines existing efforts to tackle illegal immigration and drug trafficking from both sides of the border, and whether the approach will change.
As US president Barack Obama enters the latter stage of his final term, security along the southern border with Mexico remains a highly contentious political issue. The Republican Party has made funding to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) contingent on the White House's proposed immigration reform programme, yet there is no sign that the number of undocumented immigrant arrivals will decrease in the short to medium term.
At the same time, imports of narcotics - particularly cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamines - remain unabated, fuelling the power and geographic reach of prominent Mexican organised crime groups. Although steps have been taken to enhance counter-trafficking measures along the border, such as fencing and radar coverage, significant gaps remain. One pressing issue that is therefore likely to confront the next, post-Obama administration is how best to address these weaknesses and institute a more comprehensive and effective regime of border control.
The number of people illegally entering the United States through Mexico continues to be a serious problem. According to the Pew Research Center, during fiscal year 2014, 486,000 undocumented migrants were apprehended at the southern border, an increase of 16% over the previous year. Of these, 229,000 came from Mexico and 257,000 from other countries in Central America. The majority in the latter category were nationals of El Salvador and Honduras, fleeing poverty, organised extortion, and inner-city violence. Honduras currently has the highest murder rate in the world, with 90.4 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, according to a 2014 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Historically, the border crossing points at Lukeville, Nogales, Sasabe (all in Arizona), and San Diego (in California) constituted the main points of entry. However, increased and more concerted law enforcement in these states has resulted in a change of routes, with the centre of gravity shifting eastwards to Texas - particularly the Rio Grande Valley.
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