E.g., 03/01/2024
E.g., 03/01/2024
Shifting Realities at the U.S.-Mexico Border: Immigration Enforcement and Control in a Fast-Evolving Landscape

Migration at the U.S.-Mexico border looks profoundly different today than in decades prior, with record numbers of asylum seekers and other migrants arriving from a rapidly expanding array of countries. These shifts pose complex challenges for the U.S. immigration system both at and well beyond the border.

U.S. border policy has also undergone significant change in recent years. In May 2023, the Biden administration ended pandemic-era Title 42 expulsions, while introducing a suite of policies to deter unauthorized crossings and to incentivize migrants to arrive at ports of entry and utilize lawful mobility pathways. This multifaceted approach aims to create greater order at the border but faces significant hurdles—including longstanding capacity, coordination, and resource limitations across agencies that have a role in processing arriving migrants.

This report analyzes these policy changes and shifting on-the-ground realities. Drawing in part on extensive field research and interviews along the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as in Mexico, Guatemala, and Costa Rica, the study examines border operations at and between ports of entry, post-processing challenges within the country, and evolving cooperation with Mexico and other regional partners. The report concludes with recommendations for near- and longer-term measures that can lead to a more effective, well-coordinated system of border control.

Table of Contents 

1  Introduction

2  Changing Approaches to Migration and Border Management

3  Processing between Ports of Entry
A. Dispositions and Consequences
B. Credible Fear Interviews
C. Detention and Processing Capacity
D. Sector and State Differences

4  Processing at Ports of Entry
A. CBP One App and Processing
B. Daily Port Operations
C. Port Capacity and Stakeholders

5  Post Processing and Beyond the Border
A. Differences across Sectors
B. Federal Funding

6  Spillover Effects of Border Enforcement in Mexico

7  Coordinating Migration Responses in the Broader Region

8  Rethinking Border Control and Migration Management: Critical Next Steps

9  Conclusion