Gabriela Amaya, Sharon Eby, Andrea
University of Texas at El Paso
Any correspondence should be directed to
Dr. Cheryl Howard, University of Texas at El Paso, Multiple Identities on the Border
Research, 500 West University Avenue, El Paso, Texas 79968
El Paso, Texas was one of the first points of entry to the United States to Utilize non-intrusive inspection technologies at the border for DCL crossings. These systems installed at the ports of entry in 1998 have been critical in optimizing the areas border crossing traffic. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 people experienced the worst lines ever lines with up to 3 hours of wait time. The advantages of the DCL include waiting times of only 10 to 30 minutes, although certain criteria and fees (per every 1 year in Juarez, and per every 5 years in El Paso) have to be met in order to qualify to use the DCL. The hours of operation of this service (in El Paso) are Monday through Friday from 6:00AM to 10:00PM, and Saturday and Sunday 10:00AM to 6:00PM.
The respondents for this study were people from Juarez, Mexico or El Paso, Texas, and some UTEP students that were involved in the use of the DCL program. Some of our respondents contacted us with other potential respondents, and so on, creating a snowball sample. The convenience sampling method was also utilized.
The survey was a questionnaire designed to inquire about the demographics and border crossing habits of people who use the DCL. The survey consisted of 23 questions. This survey was available to participants in English and Spanish. The questionnaire was designed to answer personal questions such as gender, age, etc. It also asked why, when, where, what, and how respondents use the DCL program. Questions that were confusing or not necessary were either modified or removed once the questionnaire was pre-tested.
Pilot results showed a mixture of answers within the data, and respondents names were kept confidential by keeping the consent forms separate from the questionnaires, with nothing to link them. The questionnaires did not request names in order to promote anonymity. Our group contacted 80 persons (10 respondents per person in the group) that are involved in the DCL program. We then asked the respondents which language they felt most comfortable with either Spanish or English then we gave them the corresponding questionnaire and had them fill it out. Group members paid attention in case the respondents needed help in a question.
Every study has the purpose of answering questions that affect us socially, in one way or another. Our study focused on learning who the people are that use the DCL program. We know that it is mostly people that live on the border, but we were also interested on other factors such as income, which side of the border uses the DCL program the most and why. These questions do exactly that; they help us to better understand the different variables and factors that influence people that cross the U.S.-Mexico border to enroll and pay for the DCL program. The response questions (written in the form of hypotheses) of our study were:
In our study we also covered a few other questions that we have results for. Some of these include how much people spent or earned each day across the border, and gender differences between DCL users. Also asked was which DCL bridges are most often crossed, as well as top choices for the location for a new DCL bridge in the future (where users desire to cross if given a choice). Additionally, we asked why DCL users may or do not use the DCL, and also about their worst experience at the border crossing.
For this survey we chose to ask the respondents an open-ended question so we could see how people label themselves regarding their ethnicity. (Table 1)
Ethnic Labels DCL Users Chose to Describe Themselves
Figure 1 shows the demographic characteristics of the sample by gender. There were 46 males represented in the survey sample, and 35 females.
Figure 2 shows another demographic characteristic of their nationality or citizenship, 26 participants reported to have dual citizenship, 27 were Mexicans, and 27 U.S citizens. As we can clearly see there was no significant difference.
Figure 3 shows the number of DCL users and their place of residence. 55 participants claimed to live in El Paso, Texas, and 27 lived in Juarez, Mexico and only one claimed to live in New Mexico. 2 people did not answer.
Figure 4 shows the income levels of DCL users. Households that make less than $15000/year are not as likely to use the DCL as people with higher incomes.
Figure 5 shows how many times and the reasons commuters cross the border. The leading answer given was to go to work and to visit their family. Among other reasons: entertainment, friends, to go to school, and very few for medical or shopping purposes.
Figure 6 shows that 67 commuters reported to use the Lerdo/Stanton (downtown) bridge more often than the Zaragosa Bridge (13 commuters).
Figure 7 shows that almost all of the participants of the sample (76 out of 79) wanted to have the DCL open at the Cordova-Americas bridge in the future. Compare this to the very few participants who wanted the DCL open at Fabens, or at Santa Teresa.
The ages of the DCL users varied greatly. The lowest age was 18 and the highest was 76. Below are the mean and the median of the ages (all 80 respondents) of the DCL users. (Table 2)
The average DCL household had an average of 3.6 adults, and 0.7 children (under age 18). Each person who uses the DCL must have a separate/individual DCL permit. In the survey we asked respondents whether they felt it was fair that they had to avoid crossing the DCL for reasons such as scheduling problems, bringing item(s) across, having other people with them, etc. Their answers follow. (Table 3)
Fair/Unfair to Have to Avoid DCL Due to Certain Rules
When people DONT use the DCL the average time it takes is between 42 minutes to 1.1 hours (66 minutes). The final average for non-DCL bridge crossings is 54 minutes. Some more questions were asked regarding families/people who use the DCL. Please note that on some of the tables below that actual numbers of respondents who answered are used. People who did not answer (left it blank) or checked the N/A box are not included. (Tables 4-5)
Number People per Family/Group Who Use the DCL
Number Vehicles per Family/Group of DCL Users
People who use the DCL said how much they earned and/or spent each day when they crossed the border (to either side). The frequency distribution is shown below. (Table 6)
Some more questions were asked to respondents regarding the DCL; their results are below. (Tables 7-13)
How People Feel About the Time it Takes to do the DCL Paperwork AND How Much the U.S. is Charging Them
How People Feel About the Time it Takes to do the DCL Paperwork AND How Much Mexico is Charging Them
Number of DCL Users General Experiences
Number of DCL Users General Experiences
Frequency of DCL Users Vehicles Inspected per Month
Frequency DCL Users Have to Explain Things
or Submit Additional Searches at Customs
DCL Users Impressions About the Inspectors at Customs
One of the open-ended questions we asked to the survey respondents was what their worst experience was in using the DCL. The answers were coded and placed into the graph below. (Figure 8 and see Tables 14,15)
Ethnicity of DCL Officials
Year When DCL Users Worst Experience Occurred
There are some additional tables of information below on various items of interest (Tables 16-20):
Where People Travel When They Cross to El Paso
Where People Travel When They Cross to Juarez
Number of DCL Users Cross for Other Reasons
Number of DCL Users Who Do Not Cross and Why
Number of DCL Users Whose Permit Was Revoked and Why
During the study we concluded according to the research findings that 35% of DCL users make over $55,000 USD annually followed by users that have a yearly income of $45,000-$55,000 USD and $15,000-$25,000, both with 16% (each) of the people interviewed. People making $25,000-$35,000 USD make up 15% of the DCL users. 10% of DCL member that have an annual income of $35,000-$45,000 are followed by users with an income of less than $15,000 at only 6% of the DCL users interviewed. Our first hypothesis was Households that make less than $15K/yr are not as likely to use the DCL as people with higher incomes. In this case, our hypothesis was supported. There is a positive relationship between higher income and amount of DCL users. (Table 21)
Our research revealed that the #1 cause of border crossing amongst DCL users is work, followed by visiting family, and lastly for entertainment (with any/all other categories diminishing from there). This supports our second hypothesis Commuters are more likely to use the DCL to go to work than for any other reason. (Figure 5)
If people cross the border to go to work, then where are they coming from? According to the survey results we found that 46 of the 80 people surveyed live in the U.S., and 34 live in Mexico. Therefore, the majority of DCL users take up residence in El Paso. This information supports our third hypothesis People who use the DCL are more likely to live in El Paso than in Juarez. (Figure 9)
Based on these results, the next question we had was How does place of residency compare with citizenship/nationality? From Figure 2 we know that DCL users nationality between the U.S., Mexico, and dual-country citizenships are relatively equal (1/3 of the DCL users in each category). However, El Paso is the favored place to live, which would logically put the choice on the shoulders of those with dual citizenship, since they would have an option as to which country they prefer to live in. Of these dual-citizenship DCL users 7 live in Juarez, Mexico and 19 live in El Paso, Texas.
In addition to the support of the three hypotheses, we found the comparisons between genders to be enlightening. The findings of our study on DCL users reveal that males use the DCL more than females. The males numbered 46 while there were 34 females. This puts the males at 57.5% and the females at 42.5% not very noteworthy at first glance (both being fairly near the 50% median); however, it is significant enough to mention since there is a 15% difference between them.
The next question that we would bring up, regarding this, is Why the difference? Does it have to do with the earlier findings of work being the #1 reason that DCL users cross the border? If so then the implication would seem to be that more men are working across the border compared to women. When the actual numbers of men vs. women are compared we find that, indeed, double the amount of men cross the border to go to work than do women. The results show that 28 of the 46 men were crossing for work (61% of the men), while only 16 of the 34 women were crossing for work (47% of the women) within their own categories. (Table 22)
Likewise, when gender is a consideration in the categories of family, as well as entertainment, we find some interesting results. Keep in mind that many of the people said that they cross for multiple reasons. (Table 23)
The results show that although men cross the border more for work, it is women who cross more often for family. The women seem to be going out for entertainment more often than the men as well, perhaps with family members? (Table 24)
The table above shows that many of the categories obviously overlap. Even though crossing the border to see family is high, and entertainment is almost as high as family (see Figure 5), there is merely a tiny fraction of people who cross ONLY for entertainment purposes. However, when overlapped with family, the entertainment percentage skyrockets. This would imply a connection between family and entertainment, and that in many cases the two go hand in hand. The differences between these categories are shown best below. (Table 25)
The conclusion would be that much of the entertainment that people are crossing the border to partake in is family-driven.
Suggestions for Further Research
Our study results had several limitations. The first is that our survey was very long. People tended to get tired of reading the questions and sometimes skipped some of the questions. To better this study, perhaps we could get rid of some of the questions that were not very relevant or showed no contribution to our findings.
Question #2 (regarding time spent in El Paso/Juarez for different reasons) on our survey seemed to pose problems. It was too long and respondents were confused about how to answer this question. They did not realize they needed to write the amount of time spent across the border. Also, everyone in the group should have had the same survey so that all results are accurate. The choice of shopping was added to question #2 at the last minute because we realized that a lot of people go shopping when they cross the border. We felt that if the respondents didnt see it as a choice they might forget to write it in (in the space provided). Some of the surveys were given before the final draft of this question was done, so results were skewed.
We used convenience and snowball sampling. These two types of sampling are both non-probability sampling. The limitations to non-probability sampling are that the samples are not very representative, although fairly easy to acquire. Therefore, our findings do not represent DCL users as a whole, but rather as parts of that whole. We found our first respondents using convenience sampling, and then used them to do snow ball sampling.
A limitation in combination with the non-probability sampling is that it is too difficult to find respondents at the border. It would be a better study had it been possible to give surveys to people at the border who crossed, using a random sampling method. Yet it is difficult to do so as crossers are usually in a hurry or reluctant to listen. It may not be safe as well.
It would probably have proven unsuccessful to hand the surveys out at the border for a postal mail return, unless we had given out many surveys to increase the probability of getting them back. This would have been expensive and it would still not have ensured that the surveys were sent back. Also, if mail surveys were done, providing stamps would have been necessary an additional increase in cost. Despite the limitations we had, our study presented us with important data and information that increased our knowledge of the topic of DCL users.
Errors that were made in this study since almost none were done face-to-face or via telephone were that we did not probe respondents for more elaborate answers in the open-ended questions. Most surveys were self-completed, and some answers were not filled out entirely. Careful observation from the interviewer was necessary when respondents were filling out surveys.
The strengths in our study were that most of our questions were well written, so we were able to get the information needed and wanted. We had 80 respondents, which were a great amount for the small study we conducted. It helped increase our knowledge about DCL users.
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