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Blockading the Border and Human Rights

The El Paso Operation That Remade Immigration Enforcement

By Timothy J. Dunn

Publication Year: 2009

To understand border enforcement and the shape it has taken, it is imperative to examine a groundbreaking Border Patrol operation begun in 1993 in El Paso, Texas, “Operation Blockade.” The El Paso Border Patrol designed and implemented this radical new strategy, posting 400 agents directly on the banks of the Rio Grande in highly visible positions to deter unauthorized border crossings into the urban areas of El Paso from neighboring Ciudad Juárez—a marked departure from the traditional strategy of apprehending unauthorized crossers after entry. This approach, of “prevention through deterrence,” became the foundation of the 1994 and 2004 National Border Patrol Strategies for the Southern Border. Politically popular overall, it has rendered unauthorized border crossing far less visible in many key urban areas. However, the real effectiveness of the strategy is debatable, at best. Its implementation has also led to a sharp rise in the number of deaths of unauthorized border crossers. Here, Dunn examines the paradigm-changing Operation Blockade and related border enforcement efforts in the El Paso region in great detail, as well as the local social and political situation that spawned the approach and has shaped it since. Dunn particularly spotlights the human rights abuses and enforcement excesses inflicted on local Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants as well as the challenges to those abuses. Throughout the book, Dunn filters his research and fieldwork through two competing lenses, human rights versus the rights of national sovereignty and citizenship.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Front Matter

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pp. i-v

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-

Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xiv

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CHAPTER 1

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pp. 1-19

“Securing the border” has become a dominant refrain heard across the political spectrum during recent years as a part of the growing concern (again) over unauthorized (illegal) immigration. While U.S.-Mexico border enforcement has been central to U.S. immigration policy and...

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CHAPTER 2

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pp. 20-50

The federal lawsuit brought by students and staff at El Paso’s Bowie High School against the El Paso Border Patrol in 1992 was a historic event, for it is the most successful, formal, and large-scale challenge to Border Patrol enforcement excesses and rights abuses in local history...

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CHAPTER 3

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pp. 51-96

The implementation of Operation Blockade on September 19, 1993, with four hundred agents posted round-the-clock in high-visibility fashion directly along the Rio Grande international boundary between El Paso and Ciudad Ju

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CHAPTER 4

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pp. 97-124

Just over two months after successfully implementing Operation Blockade, Chief Reyes sought to expand the operation in early December 1993 by proposing a 1.3-mile-long, ten-foot-high, solid, thin steel fence (or wall) immediately to the west of El Paso. It was to be placed near...

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CHAPTER 5

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pp. 125-163

Previous chapters focused on the El Paso Border Patrol’s enforcement activities and its excesses, particularly in relationship to its “subject population,” with some attention to human rights problems, but without close examination. Here I undertake a detailed examination of known...

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CHAPTER 6

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pp. 164-186

My previous chapters take the immigration and human rights story through roughly 1996–1997, and here I update developments in the latter 1990s and into 2005. After the first several years of Operation Blockade/Hold-the-Line in the mid-1990s, things were pretty stable...

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CHAPTER 7

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pp. 187-213

My purpose here is twofold: to summarize my main findings in light of the key concepts I have used to frame my study, and to then discuss the findings and their implications in broader terms with an eye toward policy changes. Operation Blockade/Hold-the-Line marked a profound change in U.S. Border Patrol enforcement efforts along the...

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Epilogue

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pp. 215-228

Several themes regarding border enforcement and immigration have emerged at the local and national levels in 2006 and through mid-2007, which I can briefly sketch out here with an eye toward the future. Overall, the fetishization of border enforcement finds ever more expression, while larger, underlying issues fueling undocumented immigration...

Notes

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pp. 229-260

Bibliography

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pp. 261-286

Index

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pp. 287-297


E-ISBN-13: 9780292793590
E-ISBN-10: 0292793596
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292719019
Print-ISBN-10: 0292719019

Page Count: 313
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Inter-America Series, Howard Campbell, Duncan Earle, and John Peterson, series editors

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • El Paso (Tex.) -- Emigration and immigration.
  • El Paso (Tex.) -- Emigration and immigration -- Social aspects.
  • El Paso (Tex.) -- Emigration and immigration -- Government policy.
  • Immigration enforcement -- Texas -- El Paso.
  • Mexico -- Emigration and immigration -- Social aspects.
  • United States. Immigration Border Patrol.
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