Run for the Border: Vice and Virtue in U.S.-Mexico Border Crossings

Run for the Border: Vice and Virtue in U.S.-Mexico Border Crossings

Run for the Border: Vice and Virtue in U.S.-Mexico Border Crossings

Run for the Border: Vice and Virtue in U.S.-Mexico Border Crossings


Mexico and the United States exist in a symbiotic relationship: Mexico frequently provides the United States with cheap labor, illegal goods, and, for criminal offenders, a refuge from the law. In turn, the U.S. offers Mexican laborers the American dream: the possibility of a better livelihood through hard work. To supply each other's demands, Americans and Mexicans have to cross their shared border from both sides. Despite this relationship, U.S. immigration reform debates tend to be security-focused and center on the idea of menacing Mexicans heading north to steal abundant American resources. Further, Congress tends to approach reform unilaterally, without engaging with Mexico or other feeder countries, and, disturbingly, without acknowledging problematic southern crossings that Americans routinely make into Mexico.

In Run for the Border, Steven W. Bender offers a framework for a more comprehensive border policy through a historical analysis of border crossings, both Mexico to U.S. and U.S. to Mexico. In contrast to recent reform proposals, this book urges reform as the product of negotiation and implementation by cross-border accord; reform that honors the shared economic and cultural legacy of the U.S. and Mexico. Covering everything from the history of Anglo crossings into Mexico to escape law authorities, to vice tourism and retirement in Mexico, to today's focus on Mexican border-crossing immigrants and drug traffickers, Bender takes lessons from the past 150 years to argue for more explicit and compassionate cross-border cooperation.

Steeped in several disciplines, Run for the Border is a blend of historical, cultural, and legal perspectives, as well as those from literature and cinema, that reflect Bender's cultural background and legal expertise.


For years, Congress has been debating so-called comprehensive immigration reform proposals. Especially since the September 11 attacks, these proposals are grounded in U.S.-Mexico border security measures that include using walls, technology, and expanded border patrol fleets to exclude undocumented entrants and drug traffickers and to block terrorists who might someday enter through our southern border, along with increased internal enforcement to detect undocumented immigrants within the United States and deport them. Some of the more compassionate proposals address the fate of millions of undocumented immigrants already toiling in U.S. jobs by offering them a chance to legalize their status. Some aim to improve slightly the prospects for future temporary entry by immigrant laborers seeking economic opportunity in the United States in numbers that exceed the current stingy limits on lawful immigration.

Comprehensive reform is exceedingly narrow in focus. Ignoring the conditions and history that have long drawn Mexican and other Latin American immigrants to the United States to supply U.S. labor needs, reform proposals emphasize border enforcement and interdiction of laborers. Derogatory characterizations of immigrants and their supposed motives for entry shape these restrictive proposals, as do misleading contentions of their negative economic impact and their reliance on social services as a lure. the United States tends to approach its immigration policies and proposals for reform unilaterally without engaging Mexico (and other feeder countries) in a mutual examination of the powerful economic factors that lure most immigrants north across a border that separates one of the world’s richest countries from one wracked with poverty. Historically, we pay scant attention to these nameless migrants who cross our border to supply cut-rate labor and survive in the shadows of prosperity, unless they clamor for their own fair chance at the American dream.

The aim of this study is to suggest a more comprehensive and pragmatic border policy than one shaped only by restrictive immigration . . .

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