A leading American historian on race, policing, immigration, and incarceration in the United States, Kelly Lytle Hernandez’s Migra! A History of the U.S. Border Patrol tells the story of how Mexican immigrant workers emerged as the primary target of the United States Border Patrol and how, in the process, the United States Border Patrol shaped the history of race in the United States. Migra! also explores social history, including the dynamics of Anglo-American nativism, the power of national security, and labor-control interests of capitalistic development in the American southwest. In short, Migra! explains the intricate relationships United States Border Patrol officers faced within a developing system of immigration law enforcement.
Migra! is divided into three parts, with part one focusing on the highly regional and local period of Border Patrol operations from 1924-1941. Prior to the establishment of the United States Border Patrol, the United States-Mexico border marked a political boundary that migrant Mexican workers needed to cross for seasonal labor. With the founding of the Border Patrol in 1924, its first generation of officers were tasked with the prevention of unlawful entry by aliens into the United States. There were many methods of unlawful entry and many classes of people explicitly prohibited from entering into the United States. To compound the growing problems faced by the Border Patrol, they would have to operate on limited funds. According to one Border Patrol officer from the early years, officers merely “walked around looking wise.”
Hernandez provides an interesting s...
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...United States immigration law enforcement. It explains the cross-border dimensions of migration control, and details the Border Patrols growth in the borderlands. Border Patrol policies are shown as intrinsically embedded in the expansion of federal law enforcement in the twentieth century. Hernandez concludes that the United States Border Patrol’s rise evolved according to economic demands and nativist anxieties but also operated according to individual interests and community investments of Border Patrol officers.
Migra! is essential reading for understanding the foundation that the United States Border Patrol was built upon. However, Migra! is short-sighted in that it will not provide readers with an explanation on the current situation in the Mexico-United States borderlands. This is the only downfall in this magnificently written and impeccably researched book.
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