|Joseph Nevins’ Operation Gatekeeper and Beyond: The War on "Illegals" and the Remaking of the U.S.-Mexico Boundary (2nd edition) should be required reading for anyone with an interest in border regions – anywhere in the world. Nevins’ book is well-written, well documented, and loaded with policy analysis and controversial policy implications. The bibliography alone is worth the price of the book.
Complex, confusing, costly, contradictory, illogical, dynamic, emotional, amusing, and tragic are among the words many words that can be used to describe US immigration policy, various immigration enforcement efforts, and the nature of the US-Mexico border region. Nevins’ excellent book conveys this complexity with a broad range of tools – including anecdotal evidence (good stories), historical analysis, political and economic analysis, and explanations of the importance of spatial relationships. Bravo!
Operation Gatekeeper began in 1994 as an effort to “reduce unauthorized migrant crossings of the US-Mexico boundary into southern California.” (p.2) But as Nevins explains in his book, Gatekeeper cannot be understood in isolation from broader historical and policy considerations. In an important sense, the ideas behind Gatekeeper have shaped the US immigration debate over the last two decades. It is apparent that the US has not yet reconciled policies of openness exemplified by NAFTA with the tighter security associated with Gatekeeper and a post-9-11 world. How can anyone deal with such issues without a sense of humor (or at least irony)? Nevins, perhaps unintentionally, provides enough material for most aspiring comedians: the apologetic border patrol agent who has a relative in custody, Pat Nixon declaring her aversion to fences, and US Border Patrol agents wearing uniforms made in Mexico. If you have not read this book, go get it, you won’t regret doing so.
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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
Online ISSN: 2159-1229