The best books on the US Border Patrol

Who am I?

I first came face to face with the expansive and unchecked authority of the Border Patrol about a decade ago when I was stopped five times in less than an hour while driving on a Texas country road. Could the Border Patrol really stop any vehicle they want without any reason whatsoever deep inside the United States? That day set me off on a journey through the borderlands and into the history of the Supreme Court in order to tell the untold story of how the Border Patrol became the most dangerous police force in the United States.  


I wrote...

Nobody Is Protected: How the Border Patrol Became the Most Dangerous Police Force in the United States

By Reece Jones,

Book cover of Nobody Is Protected: How the Border Patrol Became the Most Dangerous Police Force in the United States

What is my book about?

Late one July night in 2020, armed men, identified only by the word POLICE written across their uniforms, began snatching supporters of Black Lives Matter off the street in Portland, Oregon, and placing them in unmarked vans. These mysterious actions were not carried out by local law enforcement or even right-wing terrorists, but by the U.S. Border Patrol. Why was the Border Patrol operating so far from the boundaries of the United States? What were they doing at a protest that had nothing to do with immigration or the border?
 
Nobody Is Protected: How the Border Patrol Became the Most Dangerous Police Force in the United States is the untold story of how the Supreme Court has dramatically curtailed the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution in service of policing borders. 
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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Against the Wall: My Journey from Border Patrol Agent to Immigrant Rights Activist

Why did I love this book?

Jenn Budd’s account of her life as a Border Patrol agent is powerful because it comes from a place of self-reflection and growth. She faces up to her previous ignorance and accepts the criticism that goes along with it. This book inspired me because she sees the racism and violence that are endemic to the Border Patrol and then dedicates her life to changing it. 

By Jenn Budd,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Against the Wall as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Jenn Budd, the only former U.S. Border Patrol agent to continually blow the whistle on this federal agency's rampant corruption, challenges us-as individuals and as a nation-to face the consequences of our actions. Her journey offers a vital perspective on the unfolding moral crisis of our time. She also gives harrowing testimony about rape culture, white privilege, women in law enforcement, LGBTQ issues, mental illness, survival and forgiveness.


"An unflinching look at a Border Patrol riddled with corruption, racism, and misogyny. Raw and truthful, no one escapes judgement, not even Budd, who searches deep within herself to examine her own…


Book cover of Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Homeland Security

Why did I love this book?

I had trouble deciding which of Todd’s books to include in this list because they are all so good. I picked Border Patrol Nation because it does such a great job explaining the growth of the Border Patrol in the post-September 11 era. Todd has an eye for the telling detail and he uses his storytelling ability to trace the transformation of Customs and Border Protection from a small, obscure agency into the largest police force in the United States.

By Todd Miller,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Border Patrol Nation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"In his scathing and deeply reported examination of the U.S. Border Patrol, Todd Miller argues that the agency has gone rogue since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, trampling on the dignity and rights of the undocumented with military-style tactics...Miller's book arrives at a moment when it appears that part of the Homeland Security apparatus is backpedaling by promising to tone down its tactics, maybe prodded by investigative journalism, maybe by the revelations of NSA leaker Edward Snowden...Border Patrol is quite possibly the right book at the right time ..."--Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times "At the start of his unsettling and…


Migra! A History of the U.S. Border

By Kelly Lytle Hernandez,

Book cover of Migra! A History of the U.S. Border

Why did I love this book?

This one takes us back to the founding of the Border Patrol to look at its Wild West origins. The first agents were plucked from frontier law enforcement and the Texas Rangers, whose earlier tasks included slave patrols and the violent removal of Native Americans. Lytle Hernandez shows how those racist and violent origins shaped the practices of the early Border Patrol. 

By Kelly Lytle Hernandez,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Migra! A History of the U.S. Border as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the untold history of the United States Border Patrol from its beginnings in 1924 as a small peripheral outfit to its emergence as a large professional police force. To tell this story, Kelly Lytle Hernandez dug through a gold mine of lost and unseen records stored in garages, closets, an abandoned factory, and in U.S. and Mexican archives. Focusing on the daily challenges of policing the borderlands and bringing to light unexpected partners and forgotten dynamics, "Migra!" reveals how the U.S. Border Patrol translated the mandate for comprehensive migration control into a project of policing Mexicans in the…


Book cover of The Devil's Highway: A True Story

Why did I love this book?

I’m cheating a little on this one, because The Devil’s Highway is not about the Border Patrol specifically but rather the impact that their presence has on people trying to migrate. The power of the book is the great storytelling that brings the characters to life even as the reader knows that those lives are destined to end in the dangerous deserts of the borderlands. 

By Luis Alberto Urrea,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Devil's Highway as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A widely-praised piece of investigative reporting examining the journey of 26 men who in May 2001 attempted to cross the Mexican border into the desert of Southern Arizona through the region known as the Devil's Highway. So harsh and desolate that even the Border Patrol is afraid to travel through it, the Highway has claimed the lives of countless men and women - in May 2001 it claimed 14 more. History of high acclaim from the author of The Hummingbird's Daughter.


Book cover of The Ins on the Line: Making Immigration Law on the Us-Mexico Border, 1917-1954

Why did I love this book?

While writing my own book, this is the book that I had to keep going back to for all the historical detail on the early Border Patrol. It’s an academic book, but it does a great job of explaining the story of the early Border Patrol from the perspective of the people in the borderlands. 

By S. Deborah Kang,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Ins on the Line as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For much of the twentieth century, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) officials recognized that the US-Mexico border region was different. Here, they confronted a set of political, social, and environmental obstacles that prevented them from replicating their achievements on Angel Island and Ellis Island, the most restrictive immigration stations in the nation. In response to these challenges, local INS officials resorted to the law, nullifying,
modifying, and creating the nation's immigration laws and policies for the borderlands.

In The INS on the Line, S. Deborah Kang traces the ways in which the INS on the US-Mexico border made and remade…


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