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Have you ever wondered what happens to illegal aliens who are returned to their home country? Well, you may not have, but the federal government has found out anyway. To date, it has spent $2.44 million taxpayer dollars to discover that, because they’re demoralized and lonely when they go back home, they use drugs and prostitutes.
The ongoing federally-funded project is called “Safer Sex Intervention for Male Clients of Female Sex Workers in Tijuana, Mexico.” As part of this study, researchers did one-hour interviews with 30 men, both from the United States and from Mexico, who frequented prostitutes in Tijuana. They paid the men $20 apiece for these interviews.
The purpose behind each interview was to get the men to describe and reflect upon their experiences purchasing sex” from prostitutes and to answer questions that “explored clients’ motivations for seeking commercial sex, their condom use, perceived STI and HIV risk, and narratives on how socio-cultural and structural factors influence sexual and drug using behaviors.”
The study’s ultimate goal is to try to stem the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV. Disease is no respecter of borders, and people who engage with infected sex workers in Tijuana can bring their STIs back to America.
By April 2011, the researchers had figured enough out to publish an article in a journal called Social Science and Medicine.” In the article, they explained their findings:
Although deportees were not a specific recruitment target, almost all of the Mexican-born participants had been deported to Tijuana from the U.S., leading to separation from partners and families who remained al otro lado (“on the other side”).
Clients described social isolation as tied to their sexual behaviors with FSWs [female sex workers]. They frequently sought out FSWs to buffer isolating experiences such as deportation.
The quotations the researchers got from the men bore out these conclusions:
When I first got here, I had nobody. Who can I count on? Can’t count on nobody. It’s hard for somebody that lived there [the U.S.] all their life and gets deported. They don’t have family here and it’s hard to get a job… I suffer a lot [Age 33, Tijuana resident].
Client: I’d never lived here in my life. I just happened to be born here […] It was a foreign country to me. I speak the language, but the customs, the economy, the way of life? Nothing like how I was living in California.
Interviewer: How did you feel? What was going on with you?
C: Loneliness….immense loneliness. That this city cannot fulfill
I: Oh, my goodness. Do you think that being lonely pushed you to find some company in a female sex worker?
C: I’m in my motel room thinking, “what am I gonna do the rest of the night?” These girls come to mind that I can have sex with for a small amount of money, so I do [Age 34, Tijuana resident].
The men who had been deported from America viewed their lives as somewhat meaningless, so they were less interested in safe lifestyle habits. Moreover, prostitution is more a part of life in Tijuana, so they went with the flow. Said one, “When I lived on the other side [the U.S.], I didn’t know anything about prostitutes. . . . Here in Tijuana, what I see in regards to prostitution is that it’s normal, because I live in this area.”
Ultimately, the researchers have concluded that greater border enforcement increases STIs, since the men they interviewed were more likely to engage in unsafe sex because they were socially adrift:
“Internationally, migration, deportation, and social isolation have been linked to elevated HIV risk. We argue that these are consequences of wider geopolitical forces, such as U.S. immigration policies and enforcement actions.
We believe that intensified border enforcement and increased deportations, which have occurred in response to this movement, have had serious mental and physical consequences that have perhaps been overlooked.
These deportees most often end up at Mexico’s northern border, including two deportation centers in Tijuana, where health, social, and economic support and limited and most deportees are separated from their families and lacking in resources (i.e., isolated and disenfranchised). HIV prevention programs that encompass health services and economic and social support for deportees (e.g., shelter, counseling, HIV and STI testing, drug abuse treatment) should be developed in these settings.
By May 2011, researchers for this NIH-funded program had produced another study, this time for Health Place. This study, which did superficial surveys of 400 men who used prostitutes in Tijuana and in-depth interviews with thirty more, noted that (surprise!) men who drink make stupid decisions, including the decision to pay a Tijuana prostitute for sex.
And then, in August 2012, the researchers wrote an article for Epidemiology and Prevention in which they said that drug users make stupid decisions about unprotected sex.
So there you go: millions of taxpayer dollars to figure out the obvious – drugs, alcohol, and loneliness lead men to make dangerous decisions about sex that can have repercussions that include the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. I could have told the NIH that for half the price.