Immigration Checkpoints Along the U.S. - Mexico Border
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When driving across the U.S. - Mexico border, one will undoubtedly encounter an
immigration checkpoint. Driving from the United States to get into Mexico is relatively easy, but leaving Mexico and returning to the United States proves to be much more difficult. When driving into Mexico one is usually waived through by a Mexican official and it is easy to simply drive into the country without being stopped. However, in some instances, one’s car may randomly be selected for a search and pulled to the side. However, getting back to the U.S. is a longer process that may mean waiting in lines for hours and enduring more scrutiny by border patrol officials. One is required to stop and will most likely have to provide legal documentation to confirm one’s identity and citizenship status. The American border patrol agent will usually interrogate the driver as to where they came from, where they are going, and if they are carrying any contraband. It is also highly likely that the border patrol agents will question the driver (and their passengers) about their legal status. Border patrol officers may search vehicles for contraband. In addition, it is a common sight to see a border patrol officer walking down the lines of cars heading to the U.S. with a “drug dog," sniffing vehicles for any contraband like drugs or explosives. While the majority of checkpoints are permanent, there are some that are temporary and are moved around about every two weeks. It is highly likely that individuals will encounter more than one checkpoint as they travel north of the border. Individuals also have the option of walking to the U.S. from Mexico, instead of driving through the U.S.-Mexico border. However, the officials are just as strict and the process is equally time-consuming.
Thousands of drivers and pedestrians go through this experience on a daily basis at the U.S.-Mexico border for the purpose of border security. For residents in neighboring cities, living near any of the 34 checkpoints (temporary or permanent) has become a nightmare. For example, residents of the communities surrounding Nogales and Tucson, Arizona are voicing their opposition to the construction of a $30 million permanent checkpoint approved by Congress last year, on a nearby Interstate. Throughout the years, a temporary checkpoint has been rotated throughout the Interstate on a weekly basis. The U.S. Border Patrol, which is under the Department of Homeland Security, sees the permanent checkpoint as being a necessity for improved security. They maintain that the checkpoints are vital to security and cite the millions of dollars of drugs that have been confiscated at checkpoints and the number of arrests that have been made. The residents argue that a permanent checkpoint will make the communities more dangerous. Residents of towns close to checkpoints complain about having to deal with increased smugglers, drug dealers, and crimes. Since 9/11 millions of dollars have been invested in the border with Mexico to add Border Patrol agents, barriers and for other improvements. The FBI agents working at the U.S. Mexico border have also stepped up their efforts to catch corrupt Border Patrol officers.
The U.S.-Mexico border as opposed to the U.S.-Canada border tends to get more attention and government funds. Whereas the U.S.-Mexico border has many physical barriers like fences and increased vigilance, the Canadian border lacks many of these barriers. There are less Border Patrol agents and checkpoints in Canada but the same policies apply to both borders. In many regions of the U.S.-Canada border, individuals have little trouble getting to the U.S. They can swim, boat, jog or walk and have sometimes entered through national parks. Some believe the U.S.-Canada border is not given enough attention especially when it comes to terrorists. Canada is known for a liberal immigration and asylum system. On an annual basis Canada receives anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 refugee applications. It has been reported that greater than half of the refugee applications get approval. While Canadian immigration checks applicants against databases, there are some refugees who are unable to present documentation to confirm their identity or present fraudulent documents. This is of great concern to many because terrorists may be capitalizing on the system and setting up terrorist networks near the U.S.-Canada border. Some Canadian refugees have included ethnic group militia members from Hezbolla, Algeria’s Armed Islamic Group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and Babbar Khalsa. Many groups have raised funds in Canada and some have gone on to commit terrorist attacks. Nonetheless, both the Mexican and Canadian borders face different challenges often relating to terrain and budgets. However, they simultaneously face the same challenges relating to immigrants, smugglers, drug dealers and terrorists. Because both the northern and southern borders serve as a gateway to the U.S., analysts claim they are of equal importance and deserve equal attention.