Wednesday, April 4: C.J. Alvarez

Photo courtesy of CJ Alvarez

The American Literatures and Cultures Workshop is pleased to present

Rosenwald 405 4:30 p.m. Wednesday April 4, 2012

C.J. Álvarez

PhD Candidate, History

Predoctoral Fellow at Stanford University

“The Present as History: How the United States Has Policed Its Southern Border Since 1993”

Over the past two decades, the United States has constructed the largest and most robust policing apparatus ever assembled by a liberal democracy along the border of a non-hostile nation.  The US began policing its border with Mexico in the nineteenth century, but the enormous and highly visible policing arrangement we see today began to emerge very recently, along with a new border fence that separates the two countries.  Since the early 1990s, U.S.-Mexico border policing has become more coordinated, international, technologically sophisticated, and photogenic than it has ever been.  While this huge increase in police capacity, coupled with a physical barrier, would seem to indicate that the two nations are growing apart, I contend that the United States and Mexico have never been closer to one another economically, culturally, and politically.  This contradiction stems from the fact that federal law enforcement along the border has a dual purpose.  On one hand their job is to interdict and prevent illegal movement of people and contraband across the border.  On the other, they must regulate and facilitate legal crossings of both people and goods.  This chapter explains the inner workings of the Border Patrol, the DEA, and the Customs Service and how each agency has expanded and grown closer in recent years.  I frame the last nineteen years as significantly and strikingly different from previous border policing initiatives, and argue that we should think of the recent past as a distinct period in not only border history, but United States and Mexican history more broadly.

To receive a copy of the paper, please email Amanda Davis at aleighdavis (at) or Megan Tusler at tusler (at)

Anyone needing assistance to participate fully in this event should contact the coordinators of the American Literatures and Cultures workshop at aleighdavis (at) or tusler (at)





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