E.g., 06/17/2024
E.g., 06/17/2024
Securing Borders: The Intended, Unintended, and Perverse Consequences
January 2014

Securing Borders: The Intended, Unintended, and Perverse Consequences

All countries have the same basic goals in regard to national borders: to ensure that the beneficial movement—of legal goods, tourists, students, business people, and some migrants—is allowed, while keeping unwanted goods and people out of the country. All countries also face a similar set of border enforcement goals and challenges. They must prevent cross-border terrorism, illegal migration, human smuggling and trafficking, and other criminal activity such as drug trafficking. In adopting policies and practices to combat these activities, countries also face a common and basic dilemma: policies in any one area have perverse, regrettable, and often unintended, consequences and feedbacks. As states implement extensive border controls and apply a wide variety of deterrence measures such as visas and carrier sanctions to prevent illegal migration, they indirectly push unauthorized migrants into the hands of smugglers and traffickers who promise to evade these controls.

This report is first in a series that focuses on ways to curb the influence of these"bad actors" who pose challenges to countries' immigration control efforts. The report outlines the security-related challenges that borders are intended to address and, in turn, the perverse consequences that tighter border enforcement generates. The report analyzes challenges in five key categories: terrorism, asylum, human smuggling and trafficking, illegal migration, and drug trafficking.

Turning to policy implications of the analysis, the authors argue that in order to operate successfully in the changing landscape of border management, and prevent the perverse consequences of border control efforts, policymakers must focus on principles of good governance. Weak states cannot have strong borders, and states will not get border policy right unless they get their institutions right. Accordingly, proper border policy depends on a commitment to the rule of law, low levels of corruption, effective police and border control forces, and successful coordination both among responsible agencies and with like-minded states. To this end, this report offers several policy recommendations for more effective border security.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. Defining Borders and Security

III. Challenges to Border Security

A. Shifting Borders

B. Governing Borders

C. Embedded Borders

D. Terrorism

E. Illegal Migration

F. Asylum Seekers

G. Smuggling and Trafficking

H. Drug Trafficking and Other Criminal Activity

IV. Perverse Consequences and Policy Feedbacks

V. Policy Recommendations

A. Focus on Development, Not Just Borders

B. Work Both Bilaterally and Regionally

C. Continue to Expand Border Controls in High-Traffic Areas

D. Expand “Remote-Control” Immigration

VI. Conclusions