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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Race, immigration law, and the U.S.-Mexico border : a history of the border patrol and the Mexican-origin population in the Southwest

  • Author(s): Luna, Brandon Salvador
  • et al.

This thesis interrogates notions of race and the history of immigration law to investigate the history of the U.S. Border Patrol. What were the historical developments that contributed to the establishment and maintenance of the Border Patrol, and how was race influential in this development? This thesis critically engages the theme of race in regards to the creation and development of the United States Border Patrol at the U.S.-Mexico border. In particular I concentrate upon the history of the Mexican- origin population in the U.S. and how the racialization of this population, combined with the emergence of the Border Patrol, helped equate "Mexican" with the terms "illegal", "alien" and "wetback". From this perspective I ask "How have notions of race in the Southwest U.S. shaped the creation and maintenance of the U.S. Border Patrol and contributed to the 'illegalization' of the Mexican-origin population?" I argue that the United States Border Patrol uses racially discriminatory enforcement tactics, such as interrogating persons based solely upon their racial "appearance", that have disproportionately impacted the Mexican-origin population since its founding to the present. This thesis serves as a social history of the Border Patrol in the Southwest, looking at how the emergence of the agency and its development since 1924 has impacted the Mexican-origin population. By focusing on early conceptions of race in the Southwest and immigration law I discuss how the Border Patrol emerged as an agency that uses discriminatory enforcement measures, from its establishment up to the present

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