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29 photos that show the US-Mexico border's evolution over 100 years

Business Insider logo Business Insider 2/9/2018 Leanna Garfield

us mexico border 1950s © Provided by Business Insider us mexico border 1950s President Donald Trump signed into law a budget deal on Friday morning, reopening the government after a brief shutdown. The deal, set to be revealed on Monday, is expected to increase defense and domestic spending by just under $300 billion over two years. One component is a request for $3 billion toward building a wall along the US-Mexico border, according to Reuters.

Late last year, four construction companies completed 30-foot tall concrete prototypes of the barrier. At the time, Trump insisted that Mexico would foot the barrier's estimated $21.6 billion bill "one way or the other," despite the country's vow that it will never pay for it.

The Trump administration hopes to further secure the border by eliminating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows nearly 800,000 young immigrants who came to the US as children to stay and work in the country. Unless Congress finds a replacement, DACA will be phased out starting in March.

But the goal of establishing a firm physical boundary to separate the US from Mexico is nothing new. In the country that has the world's largest immigrant population, American presidential administrations have tried tightening security along the border for around a century.

Though the divide was formally established in 1824, the US didn't launch its official Border Patrol until 1924. Inspection and holding stations were created after that, followed by the construction of miles of fences with barbed wire and steel barriers over the next few decades.

Take a look back at the history of the US-Mexico border below.

The US established an official border patrol in 1924 with the goal of securing the US-Mexico border. In the photo below, American guards are patting down Mexicans who wish to enter the US.

a group of people posing for a photo © Provided by Business Insider

The Mexicali border station (pictured below in 1929) was surrounded by a tall fence. Cars lined up to cross into California.

a black and white photo of a boat © Provided by Business Insider

Much like today, people coming from Mexico were required to open their bags and suitcases at the border. In this 1937 photo, an agent inspects the possessions of shoppers going from Juarez, Mexico to El Paso, Texas.

a group of people standing in front of a building © Provided by Business Insider

People able to enter the US legally passed via turnstiles, as seen in this 1937 photo. During the Great Depression, Mexican immigrants faced increased risk of deportation as American hostility toward immigrant workers grew.

a man standing next to a fence © Provided by Business Insider

In 1930, the US started a repatriation program, which offered Mexican immigrants free train rides back to Mexico in an effort to curb immigration. Hundreds of thousands of Mexican immigrants, especially farm workers, were deported during the 1930s.

In this 1948 photo, two armed American border guards deterred a group of undocumented immigrants from crossing a river into the US.

a group of people that are standing in the snow © Provided by Business Insider

Traveling to Mexico from the US was not nearly as difficult. A Sigma Pi sorority chapter from Calexico, California cross into Tijuana in this 1950 photo.

In this 1948 photo, two armed American border guards deterred a group of undocumented immigrants from crossing a river into the US. © Getty Images In this 1948 photo, two armed American border guards deterred a group of undocumented immigrants from crossing a river into the US.

Undocumented immigration into the US increased after WWII, so in 1954, the government launched Operation Wetback, a program that deported nearly 4 million Mexican immigrants.

In 1965, Congress passed the Immigration and Nationality Act, which ended caps on the number of immigrants allowed into the US from a given origin country. The act concentrated on reuniting immigrant families and attracting skilled labor to the US.

a group of people standing in front of a building © Provided by Business Insider

The 1965 act changed the ethnic makeup of the US and increased the number of immigrants to the country. Legal immigration grew 60% over the next two decades, with many people coming from Latin America.

a group of people standing in front of a store © Provided by Business Insider

Sources: History and Princeton University

In September 1969, the Nixon administration launched "Operation Intercept," an anti-drug measure that resulted in a near shutdown of border crossings between Mexico and the US. Due to complaints from cross-border travelers, the initiative — which called for officers to search for marijuana — was abandoned after 20 days.

a man holding a gun © Provided by Business Insider

Friendship Park, dedicated in 1971 in San Diego-Tijuana, was intended to be a bi-national park with wire fencing at the border. In 2009, it closed for the construction of additional steel fencing, and re-opened in 2012.

a group of people standing next to a body of water © Provided by Business Insider

Source: NBC

In 1994, the first National Border Patrol Strategic Plan was developed in response to a perception among some Americans that undocumented immigrants and drug dealers were crossing the US-Mexico border. It included more aggressive prosecution of people trying to cross illegally.

a group of people walking up a hill © Provided by Business Insider

In 1999, the US Border Patrol confiscated record numbers of drugs and money: 11,249 pounds of cocaine, 168,000 pounds of marijuana, and $13.2 million in currency.

a person wearing a uniform © Provided by Business Insider

The American government began building corrugated steel walls stretching eight to 10 feet tall in the early '90s.

a man standing on a sidewalk © Provided by Business Insider

Source: CityLab

In the late '90s, inspection stations started using an automated program, called SENTRI, for pre-screened motorists to speed up the crossing process.

a man standing in front of a car © Provided by Business Insider

In July 2000, 64 special polling stations were set up in border crossing stations so that Mexican voters waiting to cross or living in the US could cast their ballots in the Mexican presidential election.

a person holding a child © Provided by Business Insider

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, security checks ramped up at the border.

a group of people standing next to a fence © Provided by Business Insider

Pedestrians and cars sometimes waited up to six hours to cross into the US.

a view of a city © Provided by Business Insider

Some who knew they couldn't pass legally tried to hide themselves. Agents discovered the sleeping boy pictured below inside the dashboard of a car coming from Mexico in 2003.

© Provided by Business Insider

Fears about undocumented immigration grew in the US during the early 2000s. In 2005, a group of civilian organizers launched the Minuteman Project, in which over 1,000 volunteers searched a 23-mile stretch of the Arizona desert for undocumented immigrants.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd © Provided by Business Insider

The group has largely splintered since then, but some still regularly patrol the border.

Source: The New York Times

Border officials detained immigrants who were trying to cross in holding centers like the Arizona one pictured below in 2005.

a group of people sitting on a bench © Provided by Business Insider

Police discovered this elaborate tunnel, used to smuggle drugs and people into the US, in 2006. The 2,400-foot-long tunnel featured lighting, ventilation, and equipment to pump out ground water.

a person that is standing in the dark © Provided by Business Insider

With the 2006 Secure Fence Act, the US started construction on more steel fencing. The boundary now spans around 650 miles and cost approximately $6 billion.

© Provided by Business Insider

Source: Vice

From 1998 to 2006, over 2,650 men, women, and children died attempting to cross the US-Mexico border. In the picture below, members of the humanitarian group No More Deaths search for migrants in distress in 2006.

a person that is standing in the grass © Provided by Business Insider

The Texas state government established Operation Lone Star in 2008, a project that sets up temporary, free healthcare clinics along the Texas border with Mexico. The first one lasted two weeks, and aimed to treat over 10,000 people, no matter their country of origin.

a group of people around each other © Provided by Business Insider

Some immigrants have attempted to cross the border into the US by riding atop freight trains, as seen in this 2013 photo. The journey is dangerous — immigrants risk robbery, assault, and injury from falling off the trains.

a train on a steel track © Provided by Business Insider

In 2014, Barack Obama announced an executive action on immigration reform, which granted temporary work permits and indefinite deportation exemptions to four million undocumented immigrants. Before the announcement, Catholic bishops led a mass near the border fence in Arizona to pray for comprehensive reform.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd posing for the camera © Provided by Business Insider

Source: The Washington Post

Since taking office, the Trump administration has attempted to start cracking down on immigration. The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 21,362 immigrants from January through mid-March 2017, a 32% jump from the same period in 2016.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd © Provided by Business Insider

Source: Politico

Today, millions of immigrants work on American farms, in retail, and elsewhere. With a DACA repeal, the national GDP could take a $460.3 billion loss over the next 10 years.

a person standing in front of a fence © Provided by Business Insider

Source: CityLab

Though Trump says his administration will build a wall, the construction timeline and funding sources remain uncertain.

a group of colorful graffiti © Provided by Business Insider


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