Border Security

By Brown, John S. | Army, December 2007 | Go to article overview

Border Security

Brown, John S., Army

Border security, closely associated with both immigration and traffic in illegal drugs and contraband, has become increasingly visible as a national issue. Partisans on both sides of now stalemated efforts to advance immigration reform, for example, acknowledge that well regulated borders are central to their visions. The Army has been drawn into these visions as well, provoking considerable grousing from those who believe the Army should be doing something different with its time and resources. A review of historical precedent might indicate how relatively modest current taskings are-and how futile it may be to resist them when called.

Securing international borders has been a primary mission for armies since time immemorial, and threats have at least as often been brigandage, smuggling and unwanted immigration as they have been conventional attack. In earlier years of our own republic, border security was certainly a top priority.

Through the War of 1812, our Army was frequently in conflict with the British or their American Indian allies all along our northern frontier. Shortly after confrontation with the British abated, rivalry with Mexico produced more wars and a different hostile border to secure. In addition, many Indian tribes had a quasi-independent status in theory-and, for periods, actual independence-producing further frontiers with an international aspect to them. Our nation was a century old before breakaway economic and population growth, the effective elimination of American Indian autonomy and a commonality of interests with the British eliminated international conflict on the North American continent as a serious defense issue.

Despite the lack of peer adversaries in North America, border security remained a preoccupation for the U.S. Army. Lawlessness replaced conventional hostilities as the principal threat. Unrest in Mexico spilled over into the United States, and the hot pursuit of fugitives exacerbated tensions on both sides of the Rio Grande. The Mexican Revolution, from 1910 through 1917, particularly inflamed circumstances. The United States favored Mexico's moderate President Francisco Madero. When he was assassinated, support shifted to the constitutionalist Venustiano Carranza. American support proved sufficient to outrage Carranza's rival Pancho Villa, who murdered a number of American citizens traveling in Mexico. Unappeased, Villa crossed the border into the United States and killed more Americans, inflicting 24 military and civilian casualties in a raid on Columbus, N.M., in March 1916.

President Woodrow Wilson and Congress committed themselves to armed intervention, and within a week, Brig. Gen. John J. Pershing crossed into Mexico with approximately 6,000 Regular Army soldiers. The campaign against Pancho Villa was no small effort. American forces penetrated 400 miles into Mexico, remained for almost a year and fought a dozen skirmishes with Villa's elusive forces. Villa lost more than 250 killed and almost as many wounded; Pershing suffered 15 killed and 31 wounded. To bolster this effort and further secure the dangerous border, President Wilson mobilized the National Guard and the Organized Army Reserve. By July, 110,000 troops were deployed along the Mexican border; another 40,000 were standing by in camps around the country. Adjusting for population growth, this would be the equivalent of the United States committing a half-million servicemembers to border security today-three times the number we now have deployed in Iraq.

The border conflagration took some time to cool. The Mexican border patrol stood up in March 1917 after Pershing's withdrawal; they worked out of more than 200 camps and outposts positioned proximate to high value targets. The 1st Cavalry Division actively patrolled the border as late as 1929 amid yet another spate of Mexican unrest. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Border Security


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.