This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Conundrum of Desert Deaths

Four bodies were found today in the Arizona desert, probably undocumented migrants from Mexico, according to CNN. Unfortunately, this is not an unusual thing because we have a conundrum here: (1) if all of the easy places to cross the border are not patrolled, the flow of immigrants is likely to be larger than anyone in the US really wants; (2) if you make it impossible to get across at the easy places, people will take bigger risks with their life crossing through more dangerous territory, such as the Arizona desert, because (3) it is impossible to completely seal the southern border of the US.
According to a recent study by the Binational Migration Institute at the University of Arizona, more than 2,230 migrants have died in the state's desert area along the border in the past 22 years.
In the border region of Pima County, Arizona, deaths of unidentified migrants in the desert have become so common the Medical Examiner's Office has helped create a website to track the deaths and assist family members searching for their loved ones' remains.
On Thursday, a bipartisan group of senators announced a proposal to add 20,000 more border agents, complete 700 miles of fence along the boundary with Mexico, and deploy $3.2 billion in technology upgrades similar to equipment used by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But, since we can't completely seal the border, people who want to cross without documentation will just keep finding the holes--which are increasingly dangerous places. There seems to be no good answer to this problem.


  1. Indeed a tragic situation.

    The only real solution to the migration "problem" (for those who see population flows as a "problem") is a time-consuming and complex one that requires strengthening the economies and public safety systems in Latin American countries. People move for a better life. They'll only stop moving when their home nation is as safe and prosperous as the U.S.

    1. Yes, I agree, but that is what NAFTA was supposed to accomplish 20 years ago. However, other changes in the world short-circuited that outcome. Unfortunately, the US is not really in a position to direct events in all of the other countries that are potential donors of migrants.

  2. here's an interesting thought. back in the old days of the Cold War (America vs Soviet Union) the USA had programs to stabilize and boost prices for products such as coffee. the idea was to allow for better prosperity of coffee farmers in Central America - in an effort to prevent rampant poverty and a slide towards socialism/communism. these programs were all dropped at the end of the Cold War. it could be argued that the USA should stand behind free pricing these days. but at the same time, the current system of market dynamics (highly leveraged prices determined by the commodities markets) does not encourage good price stability - it tends to increase price swings. it would be better if key products from third world farmers had more price stability - hence more predictable profits. therefore, the USA could look at ways to improve price stability for these basic agricultural items. this move would also help to deter growth of illegal drugs.
    DrP, Los Angeles