State of the Border Report

The State of the Border Report: A Comprehensive Analysis of the U.S.-Mexico Border
Co-editors: Erik Lee and Christopher Wilson
Chapter authors: Francisco Lara-Valencia, Carlos de la Parra, Rick Van Schoik, Kristofer Patron-Soberano, Eric L. Olson, Andrew Selee, Erik Lee, and Christopher Wilson,

The North American Research Partnership is pleased to share its new report, The State of the Border Report: A Comprehensive Analysis of the U.S.-Mexico Border/SOBRE en español. The report is a product of the Border Research Partnership, which is comprised of the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute, the North American Research Partnership and El Colegio de la Frontera Norte.

As the debate over immigration reform has brought the management of the U.S.-Mexico border back into the spotlight, this report provides a comprehensive look at the state of affairs in the management of the U.S.-Mexico border and the border region, focusing on four core areas: trade and competitiveness, security, sustainability, and quality of life. The report suggests that rather than consider each issue individually, the interdependent nature of topics like trade and security demand the border be approached from a more holistic perspective.

A Few Key Findings from the Report:

  • The more the two governments can push key security processes away from the border, the better, as an overconcentration of resources at the border (and particularly between the ports of entry) has the potential to distract from a more strategic distribution of security resources throughout the U.S., Mexico and beyond.
  • Long and unpredictable wait times at the border ports of entry are costing the United States and Mexican economies many billions of dollars each year.
  • For more than a century, shared surface water resources have been managed according to bilateral treaties and agreements. The growing population of the border region and the advent of water intensive methods of drilling for oil and gas heighten the urgency for transboundary groundwater resources to be addressed proactively and binationally. Data sharing regarding subsurface water would be a natural place to start.
  • While it is difficult to predict future flows of migrants, we seem to be at or past a point of diminishing returns in terms of improving border security through increases in Border Patrol staffing.
  • Growing faster than the national average in either country, between 2000 and 2010, the combined population of the U.S. border counties and Mexican municipios increased by 19.2%. This population will double in about 35 years, with most of the growth occurring in mid-size to large urban areas.
  • The overall quality of life on both the U.S. and Mexican sides of the border region improved between 2000 and 2010. Though there is still a major cross-border asymmetry in many of the quality of life indicators, the quality of life gap between U.S. and Mexican border communities decreased slightly between 2000 and 2010.

Mexican Foreign Ministry (SRE) YouTube Recap of Mexico City launch (June 8, 2013; in Spanish)