School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences Faculty Publications and Presentations

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In the buildup to the construction the U.S.-Mexico border fence by the United States Department of Homeland Security (USDHS), much attention was drawn to security, drug enforcement, and immigration issues. However, there was little quantitative analysis regarding which populations were most likely to be affected by the proposed fence. Using a geographic information system, we classified census blocks in Cameron County, Texas into one of two categories: either ‘fence’ or ‘gap’. A total of 14 demographic factors were tested for disparities between those living in gap areas and those living in areas exposed to the fence. Twelve of fourteen factors were found to have statistically significant (p < 0.05) disparities between gap and fence designations. Fence-designated areas were lower income ($3,833 lower for 2007) and more Hispanic (94.13% vs. 90.27%; p < 0.01) with a higher percentage of foreign-born residents (11.17% vs. 8.99%; p < 0.01). These results indicate that there were marked and statistically significant disparities in the demographics between groups living in the fence areas and those in the gap areas. Thus, as laid out by USDHS during the planning process, the U.S.-Mexico border fence in Cameron County, Texas would disproportionately affect certain already marginalized groups in an adverse manner, including through loss of ownership and use of their property. While USDHS may have made changes to the route of the border fence before final construction, the government has offered no suggestion that it considered the disparate impact of the fence and then acted to change fence locations on that basis. Beyond security, drug enforcement and immigration, future planning efforts along the border should take into account social justice impacts.


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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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The Southwestern Geographer



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