Run for the Border

Vice and Virtue in U.S.-Mexico Border Crossings

233 pages

May, 2012

ISBN: 9780814789520

$40

Cloth

Also available in

Author

Steven W. Bender is a Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development at Seattle University School of Law. He is the author of Greasers and Gringos: Latinos, Law, and the American Imagination (NYU Press, 2003), and One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, César Chávez, and the Dream of Dignity.

All books by Steven W. Bender

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.

Reviews

  • "No doubt, borders are incredibly fascinating. And if you want a pleasant way to understand the multitude of factors driving the enormous legal and illicit traffic across the U.S.-Mexico border, then Run for the Border is the book for you. Bender’s detailed and nuanced review of the U.S.-Mexican border, its history and its complexity, is invaluable. It presents a very readable collection of historic to very modern examples demonstrating why people move goods and themselves in both directions.

    Bender’s rich analysis gives us the tools to understand what is wrong—and occasionally right--with our trade, immigration and drug policies. In reviewing immigration reform and drug legalization Steve Bender makes some sober and some surprising policy suggestions.

    Run for the Border takes common U.S. border mythology and smashes it to pieces. What is left after reading this very interesting and compelling book is a much richer understanding of the U.S.-Mexico border. It uses history and modern cultural references to show what the border is and does. We also learn how and why people, legally and otherwise, have crossed goods and themselves over it for the past 150 years. Bender reveals the complexity of border traffic and shows us, strand by strand, how it works. Along the way, he also exposes the unfortunate fog of myths, stereotypes, and rank racism that have obscured our understanding of the border and the people who cross it. Run for the Border’s fact-based approach gets us well beyond the din of the intense and sometimes bitter debate over immigration and drug policies."

    —Raymond C. Caballero, former mayor of El Paso, TX

  • "Bender’s account offers an important corrective to the idea that there is any single narrative that ought to drive the complex debate on immigration policy. With a series of graphic illustrations Bender explodes many of the myths about immigration and tells the complicated interlocking series of stories that have colored our understanding of the relationship this country has had with Mexico and which Mexico has had with us. It is an important and valuable contribution to the increasingly vituperative political debate on how to manage the border."

    —Gerald Torres, author of The Miner's Canary: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy

  • "This engaging, entertaining, and educational 14-chapter book is a call to action for all to work on improving cross-border cooperation. Recommended for all readership levels."

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  • "[O]ne insight that is clearly articulated throughout this work is that the decisions that our governments make, whether unilaterally or cooperatively, have direct and critically important impact on their constituents."

    —David Hatten, clcjbooks