Family Values at the Border

Deportation does great damage to families who are often divided by the U.S.-Mexico boundary. The hardships that deported migrants endure and their great efforts to overcome the obstacles that prevent them from reuniting with their loved ones in el Norte exemplify at their very best the "family values" that many in Washington rhetorically and emptily champion.

Joseph Nevins 10/5/2011

The need to embrace and protect families is often invoked by leading members of the political class here in the United States. The U.S.-Mexico divide is a laboratory of sorts to see how this supposed love for the family plays out in practice.

An article in Monday’s New York Times reports that Mexican border towns are increasingly filled with deportees who are long-time U.S. residents with spouses and children in the United States. These familial ties compel the migrants to take ever-greater risks to rejoin their loved ones in el Norte. It also leads many of them to stay in Mexican border towns until they succeed, sometimes effectively trapping them there for years (see video below). Often, the deportees live in very difficult circumstances, and are under frequent threat from criminal gangs, as well as local police who see them as a potential cash source.



Meanwhile, deportation of a parent does long-term damage to family members—especially children (who are often U.S. citizens)—who remain in the United States. For the children, the damage is financial, emotional, psychological, educational, and behavioral.432Calexico/Mexicali. Credit: Mizue Aizeki

The cruelty of deportation shows how little Washington values families. The efforts of migrants to overcome their separation—the family reunions that regularly take place at and across the actual boundary walls and fences being a particularly moving example—exemplify "family values" at their very best.


For more from the Border Wars blog, visit And now you can follow it on twitter @NACLABorderWars. See also the May/June 2011 NACLA Report, Mexico's Drug Crisis; the Jan/Feb 2009 NACLA Report, Taking on Policy in the Obama Era; and the May/June 2007 NACLA Report, Of Migrants & Minutemen.

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