Magazine article Geographical

Geopolitical Hotspot: Mexico

Magazine article Geographical

Geopolitical Hotspot: Mexico

Article excerpt

Every international border has a story attached to it. These 'border stories' play an important role in helping us to make sense of the political geographies of nation-states.

During the 1840s, for example, the dominant narrative of the USA-Mexico border was of Mexican territorial loss and US territorial consolidation. After the US-Mexican War of 1846-47, the border migrated southwards as the USA gained nearly 2.6 million square kilometres of Mexican territory. In recent years, the dominant border story has been about crossings and control, immigration and drug trafficking. A recent report, however, reveals a new chapter: how more and more children are attempting to cross the border without adult supervision or the support of their family. It estimates that in the period 2014-15, between 70,000 and 90,000 unaccompanied minors will be apprehended after crossing the border. This represents a huge increase from five or six years ago, when the figure recorded was less than 10,000.

The USA-Mexico border stretches 3,145 kilometres from Brownsville/Matamoros in the east to San Diego/Tijuana in the west. The border region extends some 65 kilometres north and south of the official boundary. With a population of around 12 million people, this area ranges between urbanised, mountainous and desert regions, and in places, the border follows the courses of major river systems, including the Rio Grande and the Colorado.

By all accounts, the USA-Mexico border is the world's most crossed international border, with more than 350 million legal crossings made each year. As many as 250,000 people cross illegally each year, and the USA has invested heavily in border enforcement and security. But although there are around 20,000 border-patrol agents, they effectively control less than 1,100 kilometres of the border, with an ability to prevent illegal entries along a mere 208 kilometres.

To make it across the USA-Mexico border as an illegal migrant is precarious. Increased security around cities such as San Diego and El Paso has forced migrants into the desert and mountains, leading to increasing numbers dying from heat exhaustion and dehydration.

It's worth noting that the numbers of children quoted in the report as attempting to cross the border represent the total apprehended, rather than the total attempting to cross. …

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