Southwest Book Award, Border Regional Library Association, 2011
Although popularly conceived as a relatively recent phenomenon, patterns of immigrant smuggling and undocumented entry across American land borders first emerged in the late nineteenth century. Ingenious smugglers and immigrants, long and remote boundary lines, and strong push-and-pull factors created porous borders then, much as they do now.
Historian Patrick Ettinger offers the first comprehensive historical study of evolving border enforcement efforts on American land borders at the turn of the twentieth century. He traces the origins of widespread immigrant smuggling and illicit entry on the northern and southern United States borders at a time when English, Irish, Chinese, Italian, Russian, Lebanese, Japanese, Greek, and, later, Mexican migrants created various "backdoors" into the United States. No other work looks so closely at the sweeping, if often ineffectual, innovations in federal border enforcement practices designed to stem these flows.
From upstate Maine to Puget Sound, from San Diego to the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas, federal officials struggled to adapt national immigration policies to challenging local conditions, all the while battling wits with resourceful smugglers and determined immigrants. In effect, the period saw the simultaneous "drawing" and "erasing" of the official border, and its gradual articulation and elaboration in the midst of consistently successful efforts to undermine it.
Much has been debated about the presence of undocumented workers along the South Texas border, but these debates often overlook the more complete dimension: the region’s longstanding, undocumented economies as a whole. Borderlands commerce that evades government scrutiny can be categorized into informal economies (the unreported exchange of legal goods and services) or underground economies (criminal economic activities that, obviously, occur without government oversight). Examining long-term study, observation, and participation in the border region, with the assistance of hundreds of locally embedded informants, The Informal and Underground Economy of the South Texas Border presents unique insights into the causes and ramifications of these economic channels.
The third volume in UT–Pan American’s Borderlife Project, this eye-opening investigation draws on vivid ethnographic interviews, bolstered by decades of supplemental data, to reveal a culture where divided loyalties, paired with a lack of access to protection under the law and other forms of state-sponsored recourse, have given rise to social spectra that often defy stereotypes. A cornerstone of the authors’ findings is that these economic activities increase when citizens perceive the state’s intervention as illegitimate, whether in the form of fees, taxes, or regulation. From living conditions in the impoverished colonias to President Felipe Calderón’s futile attempts to eradicate police corruption in Mexico, this book is a riveting portrait of benefit versus risk in the wake of a “no-man’s-land” legacy.
Winner of the Caughey Western History PrizeWinner of the Robert G. Athearn AwardWinner of the Lawrence W. Levine AwardWinner of the TCU Texas Book AwardWinner of the NACCS Tejas Foco Nonfiction Book AwardWinner of the María Elena Martínez PrizeFrederick Jackson Turner Award Finalist“A page-turner…Haunting…Bravely and convincingly urges us to think differently about Texas’s past.”—Texas MonthlyBetween 1910 and 1920, self-appointed protectors of the Texas–Mexico border—including members of the famed Texas Rangers—murdered hundreds of ethnic Mexicans living in Texas, many of whom were American citizens. Operating in remote rural areas, officers and vigilantes knew they could hang, shoot, burn, and beat victims to death without scrutiny. A culture of impunity prevailed. The abuses were so pervasive that in 1919 the Texas legislature investigated the charges and uncovered a clear pattern of state crime. Records of the proceedings were soon filed away as the Ranger myth flourished.A groundbreaking work of historical reconstruction, The Injustice Never Leaves You has upended Texas’s sense of its own history. A timely reminder of the dark side of American justice, it is a riveting story of race, power, and prejudice on the border.“It’s an apt moment for this book’s hard lessons…to go mainstream.”—Texas Observer“A reminder that government brutality on the border is nothing new.”—Los Angeles Review of Books
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