The Three U.S.-Mexico Border Wars

Title:                      The Three U.S.-Mexico Border Wars

Author:                  Terry Payan

Payan, Terry (2006). The Three U.S.-Mexico Border Wars: Drugs, Immigration, And Homeland Security. Westport, CT: Greenwood

LCCN:    2006009796

HV5831.M46 T49 2006


  • The three border wars — A tale with two sides — The meaning of the border — The frontier era — The customs era — The law enforcement era — The national security border — The closing of the border — Our lives in the hands of others — A democratic deficit — Conflating the issues — Planning to secure the border: same old, same old — Are the three border wars justified? — The scope of the book — The drug war on the border — A bird’s eye view — Economics and geography — It’s economics — The explanatory power of a standard map — The beginning of the war — Between business and war — Bureaucrats versus drug cartels: unequal enemies — Modus smugglandi — The port of entry versus the non-port of entry axis — The people versus the vehicles axis — The NAFTA connection — The C-TPAT — The narco-tunnels — Corrupting the warriors — The protective shield of the border police — Victimizing the criminals with bribes — Violence and the drug trafficking business — Competition: violence between cartels — Competition: intra-cartel violence — Taking sides: the Mexican government — Plata o plomo: silver or lead — Disciplining the workforce — Random violence: the exception to the rule — The Sicarios — Handling the disloyal — Money and drugs: north and south — The media and the drug war — The wealth of drugs: on narco mansions and narco juniors — The big cartels versus the small time players — The border geographic of the drug war — Conclusion — Immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border — The scene at the border — The beginning — The breaking point: 1986 — A failed logic for a failed war — The balloon effect — The dead — Build it and they will come — The backside of economic development — It’s economics, stupid! — The legal side — Mothers and their babies — How they come — The old crossers: how times change — Humpty dumpty and the border — The more things change, the more they stay the same — Operation hold the line — Good fences make good neighbors — Empowering the coyotes — The crossing card trick — NAFTA and undocumented immigration — OTM: other than Mexicans — Other modus operandi — The militarization of the border — Law enforcement and escalation — Deterrence and escalation — The illegal document industry — The attrition argument — The U.S. military and the border — All the border’s a stage — The American public — The minutemen — Border political grandstanding — A new approach is needed — Homeland Security and the border — The war on terror comes to the border — The border and the immediate aftermath of September 11 — Diagnosing the failure of September 11 — Immigration failure — Economic integration, trade and border security — Arizona and New Mexico — Damn those bureaucrats! — Intelligence failure and the border — Conflating the issues — Reorganizing for border security — A nagging question — New immigration procedures — Consequences of the new immigration procedures — New trade procedures — The consequences of the new trade system — The value added by the new trade procedures — The inordinate burden on border residents — The costs of Homeland Security at the border to the taxpayer — Back to normalcy? — The treatment of border crossers — The panopticon border — Technology and the panopticon border — Militarization of the border — The border as a symbol of a reluctant partnership — Agent González and the problem with the problem — The definition of border security — The construction of security — Unhelpful rhetoric — Talking past each other at the border — A new approach is needed — The North American Free Trade Agreement and the border — The North American solution — Defining a North American community — The North American security bubble — Bureaucratic politics and the border — The border reinstated — The border is the future of America — No end in sight.


Date Updated:  December 14, 2015

The following is a publisher’s description of the book

As the United States’ response to the attacks of September 11, 2001, begins to take its final shape, perhaps the most affected area of the country is the U.S. borderlands with Mexico. The optimistic talk of the 1990s regarding trade, investment, and economic integration in North America has given way to a rhetoric focused on security, particularly securing and controlling all points of entry to and exit from the United States. Cities and towns across the Southwestern border have experienced firsthand the consequences of the new, security-oriented national ethos and practices embodied in the Homeland Security Act of 2002. The comprehensive security strategy now in place permeates the three border wars examined in this insightful work—the war on drugs, the war over the enforcement of immigration laws, and the war on terror. As Payan demonstrates, the effects of these three wars have been significant. They include a loss of local autonomy and a disconnect between the priorities of Washington, D.C., and the local populations. Perhaps more important, they have created a rigid international line that represents a barrier to economic, social, and cultural integration—and a source of fear and suspicion between neighbors.

Payan traces the history of these policies on the border to discern and understand the evolutionary patterns and common threads that join all three policies together today. He argues that historically the border has experienced a gradual tightening and increasing militarization, culminating in today’s restrictive environment. This book illuminates the ways in which border residents are coping with the stricter border security environment, and how they navigate their daily lives in the face of an increasing number of federal bureaucrats and programs designed to close the border. It examines the significant conflict between the government’s efforts to close the border and the border communities’ efforts to open it.



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