This is the untold history of the United States Border Patrol from its beginnings inas a small peripheral outfit to its emergence as a large professional police force To tell this story, Kelly Lytle Hern ndez dug through a gold mine of lost and unseen records stored in garages, closets, an abandoned factory, and in US and Mexican archives Focusing on the daily challenges of policing the borderlands and bringing to light unexpected partners and forgotten dynamics, Migra reveals how the US Border Patrol translated the mandate for comprehensive migration control into a project of policing Mexicans in the US Mexico borderlands


10 thoughts on “Migra!: A History of the U.S. Border Patrol

  1. Scott Baxter Scott Baxter says:

    I was interested in this book after hearing that the author was awarded a MacArthur grant for her book which challeng es long held beliefs about the origins, ideology, and evolution of incarceration and immigrant detention practices in the United States But I found the book too theory heavy for my tastes and stopped reading But I did like the way she started the book Spoken It s a bird It s a plane No man, it s a wetback sung He cam from the sky, but he is not a plane.He came in his spa I was interested in this book after hearing that the author was awarded a MacArthur grant for her book which challeng es long held beliefs about the origins, ideology, and evolution of incarceration and immigrant detention practices in the United States But I found the book too theory heavy for my tastes and stopped reading But I did like the way she started the book Spoken It s a bird It s a plane No man, it s a wetback sung He cam from the sky, but he is not a plane.He came in his spaceship from Krypton,And by the looks of him, he s not American.He s someone like me undocumented.So the migrant should not workBecause even though it hurts, Superman is an illegal.He s a journalist, and I am too He didn t serve in the army what a bum He is white, has blue eyes and is well formed I m dark skinned, chubby and short.But in my homeland I already marchedWith the coyote I paid when I crossed.He didn t serve in the military.He doesn t pay taxes and he wants to pass judgement.He doesn t have diamonds or a license to fly.I ll bet he doesn t even have a social security card.We need to kick Superman out of here.And if it s possible, send him back to Krypton.Where is the emigration authority What s the news, Mr Racism, in the nation For all I know they don t fine him for flying.But on the contrary, they declare he s Superman.Jorge Lerma Superman is an illegal alien Toward the end of the Great Depression, DC Comics launched its fantastic tale of an orphaned infant alien who grew up to become an American hero named Superman The Superman saga begins with the young hero s dramatic arrival on earth Just moments before the destruction of his home planet, Kyypton, Superman s parents rocket their infant son toward salvation in Kansas Adopted by a childless but moral and God fearing couple, Superman spends his early years as nothingthan an average Anglo American boy coming of age in rural America But beneath his external appearance, he is different Unlike his neighbors, Superman can fly, melt steel, and see through walls And, unlike his neighbors, Superman is an illegal alien.Thirty one years before Superman landed in American folklore, the United States Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1907 This law required all immigrants entering the United States to pass through and official port of entry, submit themselves to inspection, and receive official authorization to legally enter the United States Dropping from the sky and failing to register with the U S Immigration authorities, Superman entered the United States without authorization According to U S Immigration law, the incorruptible leader of the Justice League of America was an illegal immigrant Yet the tale of Superman evolved free of any hint or consideration of his illegal status Surely, Superman was just a fantasy and, as such, the character and narrative were not subject to the basic realities of U S Immigration restrictions But in the same years that Superman s popularity soared, the United States became a nation deeply divided over the issue of illegal immigration From congress to school boards, Americans decried an immigrant invasion and a loss of control over the country s borders These debates swirled around the issue of unsanctioned Mexican immigration at the U S Mexico border By the mid 1970s, vigilantes were patrolling the border, and congress was hosting explosive debates about how to resolve the so called wetback program As the issue of unauthorized Mexican immigration rippled across the political American landscape, Chicano activist and songwriter Jorge Lerma asked his listeners to consider the irony of Superman s enormous popularity It s a bird It s a plane No man, it s a wetback Shouted Lerma But few people took note that the iconic Man of Steel was an illegal immigrant.Lerma s provocative interrogation of Superman s forgotten illegal immigrant was a critique of the U S Border Patrol s nearly exclusive focus on policing Mexican immigrant workers despite many other possible subjects and methods of immigration law enforcement pgs 1 2


  2. Jessica Jessica says:

    MIGRA by Kelly Lytle Hernandez, a history of the US Border Patrol roughly 1924 1974, and unsurprisingly, entirely focused on the CA AZ TX border with Mexico.Her major intervention is using Border Patrol records and Mexican migration policy records to show how the Patrol became a state sponsored space of policing that was quickly racialized to only focused on Mexican migrants, and beyond that, highly gendered in its enforcement tactics Perhaps most importantly, she shows how this space was m MIGRA by Kelly Lytle Hernandez, a history of the US Border Patrol roughly 1924 1974, and unsurprisingly, entirely focused on the CA AZ TX border with Mexico.Her major intervention is using Border Patrol records and Mexican migration policy records to show how the Patrol became a state sponsored space of policing that was quickly racialized to only focused on Mexican migrants, and beyond that, highly gendered in its enforcement tactics Perhaps most importantly, she shows how this space was made and enforced through both US and Mexican policies, as each nation had its own logics for justifying surveillance, enforcement, and deportation The most informative chapters are definitely those on the strategies for enforcement airlifts and buslifts that were largely avoided for women children , the emergence of the Bracero program facilitating work permits migration for a select group of agricultural laborers, and subsequently marking others as inherently illegal through lack of such paperwork , and her chapter on Operation Wetback and the rhetoric of success on the issue of migration during the Eisenhower administration I would highly recommend, though I do wish she d spokenabout the motivations for migration from Mexico throughfirst hand accounts social histories, especially those experiences from women and non agricultural laborers


  3. Reading Reading says:

    Adequate but somewhat muddled, dry and lacking inrecent history While at times I appreciated the authors dry and academic style it made for a challenging and dull read No, I don t want a sexy narrative or personal anecdotes but I have certainly redengaging histories that still sick to the facts A People s History come to mind.Additionally I would have preferred alinear telling out apredictable consistent jumping between time periods as the structure was less than i Adequate but somewhat muddled, dry and lacking inrecent history While at times I appreciated the authors dry and academic style it made for a challenging and dull read No, I don t want a sexy narrative or personal anecdotes but I have certainly redengaging histories that still sick to the facts A People s History come to mind.Additionally I would have preferred alinear telling out apredictable consistent jumping between time periods as the structure was less than ideal for me Finally, thedetailed history essentially stops in 1980 with the only information about the period after that covered in a brief epilogue While I appreciate that this is A History of the US Border Patrol , it was published in 2010 and given how critical border policy is it would have been valuable to provide additional material covering 1980 2000


  4. Billy Wittenberg Billy Wittenberg says:

    Painstakingly researched and illuminating history of a little understood piece of America s broken immigration policy Kelly Hernandez goes to excruciating depth to investigate the creation and evolution of the US border patrol She even combs through mildewed records found inside a forgotten Mexican warehouse to bolster her case For anyone researching the subject, this is an essential read.But I only gave three stars due to the dense, dry text Writing this book was surely a labor of love, and Painstakingly researched and illuminating history of a little understood piece of America s broken immigration policy Kelly Hernandez goes to excruciating depth to investigate the creation and evolution of the US border patrol She even combs through mildewed records found inside a forgotten Mexican warehouse to bolster her case For anyone researching the subject, this is an essential read.But I only gave three stars due to the dense, dry text Writing this book was surely a labor of love, and unfortunately so is reading it I estimate the text could be reduced by 25% and still tell the same story If you only have a passing interest in the subject, this probably isn t the book for you


  5. Atif Taj Atif Taj says:

    The history of border patrol imported the borderlands deeply rooted racial divide, converting Mexicans as a weak wetback, brown faced man looking for work early on and then as a maniac, criminal involved in crime and drug trade.


  6. Leah Leah says:

    social history of border patrol really interesting chapters on the 1940s and 1950s, detailed account of border patrol practices and social life.


  7. Raul Alonzo Jr. Raul Alonzo Jr. says:

    Informative and succint history that provides crucial context to the current situation.


  8. Miguel Miguel says:

    Beginning with the creation of the U.S Border Patrol in May 1924, Kelly Lytle s book Migra A History of the U.S Border Patrol, which is an offshoot from her dissertation, presents the story of the organization and how it helped shape the story of race in the United States 2 She states that the formation of the Border Patrol was the product of a larger andcomplex process that from is usually presented as part of the master narrative 3 She ties agricultural labor tied to the capital Beginning with the creation of the U.S Border Patrol in May 1924, Kelly Lytle s book Migra A History of the U.S Border Patrol, which is an offshoot from her dissertation, presents the story of the organization and how it helped shape the story of race in the United States 2 She states that the formation of the Border Patrol was the product of a larger andcomplex process that from is usually presented as part of the master narrative 3 She ties agricultural labor tied to the capitalistic economy in the Southwest to the organization s formulation 4 Migra situates the discussion of the Border Patrol to both sides of the U.S Mexico border and states that Mexico was a crucial partner in migration control and border enforcement 7 She also introduces a racialized term Mexican Brown, as a conceptual and theoretical tool because she states, regardless of immigration or citizenship status, it was Mexican Browns rather than abstract Mexicans who lived within the Border Patrol s sphere of suspicion This statement is problematic because it does not answer where Chicanos fit into the nation state and who puts them at the border and how the nation state is constructed As if a Mexican body is a threat to the nation Instead, she ties the formulation of the term to the black white binary that influences how the Border Patrol developed its work while excluding the population that they policed In the first chapter, Migra chronicles various laws that mitigated the creation of the Border Patrol such as various historic events such as white violence against Mexicans, such as the U.S Mexico War 1846 48 , the Chinese Exclusionary Act of 1882, the Gentlemen s Agreement of 1907 and the 1913 and 1920 Alien Land Laws, and the Tydings McDuffie Act of 1934 Using personal stories of early Border Patrol agents such as Dogie Wright to Pete Torres, Lytle demonstrates how unskilled men rose to become an enforcement agency in the borderlands and over time these men become agents of inequality, yet Lytle paints them as heroes The second chapter focuses on labor control, masculinity, smugglers and the training of agents Lytle does not challenge the official story of the Border Patrol instead she documents it reinventing itself A short Chapter 3 presents border control in California Arizona area that could have been expanded Chapter 4 presents outlines the problems of Mexican migration and focuses on Mexico s system of immigration control There is also a chapter on border enforcement during World War II as well as it tied to agricultural worker demands in the 1940s Migra is uneven, with some chapters smaller than others She uses oral histories of agents and primary documents from both Mexico and early Border Patrol documents from the United States to tell her story Lytle is interested in the power dynamics along the U.S Mexico border, as was Neil Foley in his book The White Scourge, Mexicans, Blacks and Poor Whites in Texas Cotton Culture The book is dis jointed in various chapters because in her book Lytle is trying to figure out the culture of the Border Patrol and then tie it to bigger historical debates using issues like nativism, racialization and labor control in the borderlands where racism permeates the landscape A drawback of the book is that the beginning is rich and historically detailed but at the end it unravels She doesn t expound on the history of the Border Patrol after the 1950 s or show the origins of her book, maybe because she did not have access to those stories


  9. José Angel Hernandez José Angel Hernandez says:

    Remarkable.