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Researchers find that militarized borders are largely ineffective

Border security and immigration have been hot-button topics in South Carolina and around the country during the 2016 primary season, but recent research suggests that increased scrutiny of those crossing the U.S. Mexican border does little to keep illegal immigrants out and mainly serves to prevent immigrants already in the United States from leaving. The study was published in the March 2016 edition of the American Journal of Sociology.

According to the research, increased border security has had a profound impact on the movement of immigrants but little influence over their numbers. Prior to border militarization, Mexican immigrants traveled with relative ease between the two countries and rarely strayed past a handful of southern states. Increased security throttled this circular movement and led to a permanent illegal immigrant community of about 11 million people. Mexican immigrants cut off from their home country also ventured further into the U.S. than they had before security was tightened, and their communities can now be found in all 50 states.

The militarization of the border has come at a steep price to taxpayers. Beginning in 1986, spending on border security began to surge, and about $35 billion had been invested in infrastructure, personnel and equipment by 2010. As crossing the border became more difficult, an increasing number of immigrants chose to settle down in the United States. However, investment in border security did lead to an increase in the number of immigrants apprehended, and this was in turn used to justify further spending.

Many of the immigrants who enter the United States illegally each year would apply for immigrant visas if they could. While the rules are rigid and deadlines are strictly adhered to, there are several paths open to those who wish to pursue the American dream. Experienced immigration attorneys may explain options such as employment visas, petitions for asylum and applications for permanent residence.

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