Study Reveals That Smuggled Undocumented Migrants Are 80% Less Likely To Be Detained By Border Security

The Justitia Institute examines the effects of smuggling on the likelihood of detention; reports 80% decrease in odds of detention for smuggled undocumented migrants when compared to undocumented migrants who cross the border alone

In the prelude to the presidential election, legislators continue to debate appropriate measures for border security. Under the Obama administration the Customs and Border Patrol budget reached an all-time high in 2010 with more than 10 billion dollars allocated for enforcement. Today, The Justitia Institute revealed findings from its report analyzing the effects of smuggling on the likelihood of detention for undocumented migrant border crossers.
"Smuggling and the Likelihood of Detention: An Exploratory Study of Undocumented Migrants in Northern Virginia" is the first study to collect individual level data from undocumented migrants in Northern Virginia on their methods of border crossing.

Key findings of the report include:

90% of undocumented migrants use a smuggler to enter the United States.

The average cost of a smuggler for undocumented migrants in Northern Virginia is $6,000.

The odds/risk of detention by border security is 80.5% less for undocumented migrants who used a smuggler, compared to undocumented migrants who crossed alone.

The report aims to raise discussion on whether smuggled undocumented migrants are more likely to evade detection at the border than undocumented migrants who cross individually. This hypothesis was premised on the belief that tightened U.S. borders have increased the likelihood of detection and detention for individual undocumented migrants; thus, resulting in migrants relying more heavily on human smugglers in hopes of evading detection by border agents. Estimates indicate that current border patrol practices may not be as successful as once thought. The results of this preliminary research suggest that smuggled undocumented migrants may be more likely to evade border control, and as such more research is needed to better gauge the effectiveness of border security techniques.

"Although 40% of the unauthorized foreign national population entered the United States on a valid visa and overstayed that visa, current immigration enforcement practices are disproportionately focused on securing our southern border with Mexico," said Dr. Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco, Executive Director of The Justitia Institute. "Given this substantial fiscal and departmental investment, it is important to assess the success of current border enforcement practices. Additional research is needed to evaluate the solvency of our current border security efforts and appraise the underlying push and pull factors of undocumented migration."

The full report is available online, under publications, at:

A more complete version of this study is currently under review by the multi-disciplinary peer-reviewed journal, Criminal Justice Policy Review. As a follow up to this study, The Justitia Institute is soliciting partners needed to conduct research on U.S. border security and the displacement of migration or diffusion of deterrence.