The Effect of Increased Customs Scrutiny on Legal Entrance into the United States
In the years since the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001 led to greatly increased security scrutiny at the United States's ports of entry, there has been a general decline in the number of people legally entering the country over land borders. This general decline has been most pronounced among people crossing the border in personal vehicles, which is the largest category of crosser by far. This thesis will show, by controlling for other measurable factors that might direct the volume of cross-border traffic, that the disproportionate decline in persons crossing the border in personal vehicles can be tied to intensified security procedures by Customs and Border Patrol, an agency with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, since 2001. Using the Bureau of Transportation Statistics's Border Entry Data set, along with data from several other sources, including the Economic Statistics Administration and the U.S. Census Bureau, I have assembled traffic volume data from each of 112 ports of entry along both the Mexican and Canadian borders. I have paired this data with several economic and demographic indicators about the area surrounding each port in an attempt to capture the motivation of those people crossing the border. By doing this, I was able to isolate border crossers' motivations; doing so allowed me to judge how strong of an effect the inconvenience of increased scrutiny by Customs has had on their decisions to enter the United States. Using two time periods to encapsulate the security culture at the border both immediately following the September 11th attacks and in the proceeding years, my model shows that increased customs scrutiny has had a significant downward effect on the number of auto passengers who enter the United States. This effect is more pronounced at the Canadian border, which may be due to increased security being more of a shock to the system there than at the relatively constrained Mexican border. Overall, this suggests that policymakers focus their efforts on analyzing whether the increased security at the Canadian border is worth the economic disruption it causes versus the ability to dissuade terrorists from conducting operations by crossing the US-Canadian border.
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