UA Conducts Post-apprehension Survey of Undocumented Immigrants

March 25, 2013


In November 2011, BORDERS was tasked by the Office of Immigration Statistics (OIS) at DHS to conduct a post apprehension survey of undocumented immigrants. The focus of the survey was to assess the intent of apprehended  immigrants to re-enter the U.S. and determine the underlying reasons for their decision.  

In early 2012, researchers at the University of Arizona created a survey and sampling plan with input from OIS and the Office of Border Patrol (OBP).  The Tucson Coordination Center (TCC) was identified as the preferred location for conducting the interviews based on the sector’s high levels of apprehensions, and the facility’s proximity to the university.  A pilot study was conducted followed by primary data collection in summer, 2012.

Researchers used a stratified sampling method to closely match the age, gender, and previous apprehension profile of apprehended immigrants in the Tucson Sector. Using a 38-question survey, a team of bilingual interviewers compiled migration histories of 1,000 detainees concentrating on past attempts (successes and failures); intent to re-enter and factors influencing this decision; and demographic information. To encourage honest responses, subjects were assured that their responses would remain anonymous, the interviewers did not work for OBP, individual results would not be shared with OBP, and their answers would not influence legal or administrative consequences.  Participation in the interview was voluntary. 

To address the primary goal of the study, all survey items were correlated with two primary questions:

  • Do you think you will attempt to cross again in the next seven days?
  • Do you think you will return to the U.S. someday?

Major findings from the study reflect a number of elements that many have long believed to be true, specifically that economic and family situation are primary drivers of intentions to enter into the U.S. illegally.  Overall, the study found that subjects who were more informed about the crossing experience (i.e. those that had accurate information about crossing, knew about the consequences of being captured, and had considered alternate crossing locations such as California and Texas) were significantly more likely to indicate they would attempt crossing again in the future.  For subjects with high motivation to return to the U.S. such as family and established jobs, consequences did not seem to be a major deterrent.  During the interviews, subjects frequently made comments such as “I understand the consequences, but the need to go to the U.S. is greater”. Many subjects also commented that it is not the legal consequences of crossing that deter them, but rather the difficulty and danger of crossing the desert.