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. 

The books I picked & why

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

By Jenn Budd,

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

Why 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. 


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

By Todd Miller,

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

Why 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.


Migra! A History of the U.S. Border

By Kelly Lytle Hernandez,

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

Why 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. 


The Devil's Highway: A True Story

By Luis Alberto Urrea,

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

Why 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. 


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

By S. Deborah Kang,

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

Why 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. 


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