100 books like Border Patrol Nation

By Todd Miller,

Here are 100 books that Border Patrol Nation fans have personally recommended if you like Border Patrol Nation. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America

June Carolyn Erlick Author Of A Gringa in Bogotá: Living Colombia's Invisible War

From my list on classics for understanding Latin America.

Who am I?

I accidentally fell in love with Latin America, a love that has lasted my lifetime. When I was young, I lived in a Dominican neighborhood in New York, learning Spanish from my neighbors. After I graduated from Columbia Graduate School of Journalism I got a job covering the Cuban community in New Jersey because I spoke Spanish. Eventually I ended up living in Colombia and then Managua as a foreign correspondent. Now I edit a magazine at Harvard about Latin America. It's not just the news that interests me; I love the cadence of the language, the smell and taste of its varied cuisine, the warmth of the people, the culture, and, yes, soccer.

June's book list on classics for understanding Latin America

June Carolyn Erlick Why did June love this book?

Greg Grandin is a historian's historian, a brilliant researcher, a captivating writer. It's honestly hard to pick which of his books to feature here. But since The End of the Myth won the Pultizer Prize, I'll choose it as my favorite. What I loved about this book is that it gives me a new perspective about the history of my own country—about which, frankly, I do not know that much—and the region I have reported on for most of my life, Latin America. He makes connections and does so in a compelling fashion.

The book focuses on the United States and the border, but it sheds much light on how the myth of manifest destiny has shaped the way we think of ourselves and our relationship with our southern neighbors.

By Greg Grandin,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The End of the Myth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE

A new and eye-opening interpretation of the meaning of the frontier, from early westward expansion to Trump’s border wall.

Ever since this nation’s inception, the idea of an open and ever-expanding frontier has been central to American identity. Symbolizing a future of endless promise, it was the foundation of the United States’ belief in itself as an exceptional nation – democratic, individualistic, forward-looking. Today, though, America hasa new symbol: the border wall.

In The End of the Myth, acclaimed historian Greg Grandin explores the meaning of the frontier throughout the full sweep of U.S. history…


Book cover of Immigration and Democracy

Michael Blake Author Of Justice, Migration, and Mercy

From my list on understanding what’s happening at the border.

Who am I?

I’m a political philosopher who lives in Seattle. I teach and write about political ethics, and the ways in which moral concepts change when they get applied to the relationships between states—and to the complicated borders that define where states end. I tend to write about what puzzles me, and many of these puzzles come from my personal life; I’m a migrant myself, and the experience of migrating to the United States led me to write about what sorts of values a country can rightly pursue through migration policyand what sorts of things, more generally, it can and can’t do to migrants themselves.  

Michael's book list on understanding what’s happening at the border

Michael Blake Why did Michael love this book?

Sarah Song is a lawyer and political scientist, and her book traces the history of American migration lawwith a particular focus on how that history reflects both anxiety about foreign influence, and fear that migrants will disrupt the domestic labor market. It’s a fascinating story, and it’s instructive to see how modern conversations about the border mirrorfor better or for worse - the conversations that happened over a century ago.

By Sarah Song,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Immigration and Democracy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How should we think about immigration and what policies should democratic societies pursue? Sarah Song offers a political theory of immigration that takes seriously both the claims of receiving countries and the claims of prospective migrants.

Immigration is one of the most polarizing issues in contemporary politics. It raises questions about identity, economic well-being, the legitimacy of state power, and the boundaries of membership and justice. How should we think about immigration and what policies should democratic societies pursue?

Some contend that borders should generally be open and people should be free to migrate in search of better lives. Others…


Book cover of Wall Disease: The Psychological Toll of Living Up Against a Border

D.W. Gibson Author Of 14 Miles: Building the Border Wall

From my list on understanding borders in a globalized world.

Who am I?

For over a decade I’ve been writing about the lines that define us. Whether it’s the work we do or the communities we live in, we all create “borders” in our everyday lives. I’ve interviewed thousands of people from all walks of life to gain a better understanding of the lines we use to carve out our identities and our place in this world, whether it’s on the individual level, within a small community, or on a national scale. My work is always getting at how these lines of separation function, practically speaking, particularly in an increasingly globalized, interconnected world. 

D.W.'s book list on understanding borders in a globalized world

D.W. Gibson Why did D.W. love this book?

We know a lot about the hot-button issues surrounding borders – family separations, deportation, smuggling but borders also have wildly underestimated psychological effects on individuals. Wapner impressively synthesizes data and research collected on the effects of border barriers from some of the most volatile regions in the world including India and Pakistan, Mexico and the U.S., and both sides of the peace lines of Northern Ireland. The mental health issues caused by militarized borders are alarming and almost entirely unrecognized in today’s world; Wapner brings these shocking and revelatory dynamics to light.

By Jessica Wapner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A groundbreaking investigation into the hidden mental health effects of border walls, revealing the harm they bring to all who live near them.

Today, there are at least seventy border walls: from the US-Mexico border to the seventeen thousand miles of barbed wire that wall off Bangladesh from India, as well as the five-layer fence between Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Border walls protect us, the argument goes, because they keep danger out. But what if the walls themselves endanger everyone who lives near them - on both sides?

In this thoroughly reported, eye opening work, science journalist Jessica Wapner reveals…


Book cover of The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández Author Of Migrating to Prison: America's Obsession with Locking Up Immigrants

From my list on turning immigration policies into human stories.

Who am I?

As an immigration legal scholar and lawyer, I read about immigration a lot. From laws that seem written to confuse to articles in academic journals written for an audience of experts, I’m lucky to love what I do—and so I enjoy most of what I read. But these books are special. They drew me in and wouldn’t let go until the last page. Whether fiction or non-fiction, they are written by storytellers who bring laws and policies to life.

César's book list on turning immigration policies into human stories

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández Why did César love this book?

Much of “the line,” as Border Patrol agents and migrants sometimes call the border, is far from big cities and curious journalists. And a lot of what happens there, happens under cover of darkness or behind the secured doors of Border Patrol stations.

As a former Border Patrol agent, Cantú saw what happened when no one else was looking. His memoir shares it with the rest of us.

By Francisco Cantú,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Line Becomes a River as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for Political Writing 2019, an electrifying memoir from a Mexican-American US Border Patrol guard

'Stunningly good... The best thing I've read for ages'
James Rebanks, author of The Shepherd's Life

Francisco Cantu was a US Border Patrol agent from 2008 to 2012.

In this extraordinary account, he describes his work in the desert along the Mexican border. He tracks humans through blistering days and frigid nights. He detains the exhausted and hauls in the dead. The line he is sworn to defend, however, begins to dissolve. Haunted by nightmares, Cantu abandons the Patrol for civilian…


Book cover of Border Hacker: A Tale of Treachery, Trafficking, and Two Friends on the Run

Abigail Leslie Andrews Author Of Banished Men: How Migrants Endure the Violence of Deportation

From my list on the criminalization of immigrant men.

Who am I?

I’m a scholar of gender and state violence, and I live and work at the US-Mexico border. For the past several years, I’ve worked collaboratively with large teams of Latinx-identified students to study the impacts of US immigration policies on migrants from Mexico and Central America. We realized that even though about half of immigrants are women, around 95% of deportees are men. So, we started to think about how US policies criminalize immigrant men. I became especially interested in how immigration enforcement (at the border and beyond) intersects with mass incarceration. In the list, I pick up books that trace the multinational reach of the carceral apparatus that comes to treat migrants as criminals.

Abigail's book list on the criminalization of immigrant men

Abigail Leslie Andrews Why did Abigail love this book?

This is the incredibly gripping tale of the friendship and interdependency between Levi, a young (23-year-old) anthropological researcher who joins a migrant caravan, and Axel, a migrant and hacker who ends up employed by many bigshots in the migrant-aid industry within Mexico.

It uncovers a terrible set of abuses in migrant shelters, as shelter leaders spy on one another, brutally mistreat migrants, and manipulate migrants and the government. I read it in three days.

By Levi Vonk,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Border Hacker as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An unlikely friendship, a four-thousand-mile voyage, and an impenetrable frontier—this dramatic odyssey reveals the chaos and cruelty US immigration policies have unleashed beyond our borders.

Axel Kirschner was a lifelong New Yorker, all Queens hustle and bravado. But he was also undocumented. After a minor traffic violation while driving his son to kindergarten, Axel was deported to Guatemala, a country he swore he had not lived in since he was a baby. While fighting his way back through Mexico on a migrant caravan, Axel met Levi Vonk, a young anthropologist and journalist from the US. That chance encounter would change…


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

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

From my list on 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.  

Reece's book list on US Border Patrol

Reece Jones Why did Reece 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 Migra! A History of the U.S. Border

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

From my list on 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.  

Reece's book list on US Border Patrol

Reece Jones Why did Reece 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

Louis Mendoza Author Of (Re)constructing Memory, Place, and Identity in Twentieth Century Houston: A Memoir on Family and Being Mexican American in Space City USA

From my list on Mexican migration to the United States.

Who am I?

As a second-generation immigrant, I knew very little of my family’s migration story. My grandparents never really learned English despite living in the US sixty or more years. In my twenties when the country was undergoing turmoil about immigration reform once again, I began looking at the immigrants all around me (and in literature) and identifying what we had in common—how our lives intertwined and were mutually dependent on one another. In 2007 I traveled 8,500 miles around the perimeter of the US by bicycle on a research trip to collect stories from immigrants and those whose lives they impacted. I wrote two books based on that experience.

Louis' book list on Mexican migration to the United States

Louis Mendoza Why did Louis love this book?

The Devil’s Highway is the 2001 story of the tragedy that befell 26 men and boys from Veracruz who cross the Mexico/Arizona border led by human smugglers who get lost on a stretch of desert known as the Devil's Highway.

Urrea is known for his direct and clear reportage style of writing. As he depicts what happened to these men seeking a chance at the American Dream, Urrea does not lose sight of the broken system of immigration, the border patrol, the smugglers or the criminal enterprise of which they are part.

The actual walk and the deadly mistakes made by their “guide” are not shared until Part Three of the book. Through the recollections of walkers and creative non-fiction he recreates dialogue that captures the motives and dreams of these ill-fated men.

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

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

From my list on 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.  

Reece's book list on US Border Patrol

Reece Jones Why did Reece 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…


Book cover of Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants

Michael Blake Author Of Justice, Migration, and Mercy

From my list on understanding what’s happening at the border.

Who am I?

I’m a political philosopher who lives in Seattle. I teach and write about political ethics, and the ways in which moral concepts change when they get applied to the relationships between states—and to the complicated borders that define where states end. I tend to write about what puzzles me, and many of these puzzles come from my personal life; I’m a migrant myself, and the experience of migrating to the United States led me to write about what sorts of values a country can rightly pursue through migration policyand what sorts of things, more generally, it can and can’t do to migrants themselves.  

Michael's book list on understanding what’s happening at the border

Michael Blake Why did Michael love this book?

This book helped me to understand the reasons people choose to migrateand, in particular, how big structural changes in the policies and law of the United States can lead to changes elsewhere that makes it hard to avoid migrating. It’s easy to focus either on the particular stories of individual people, or on the big picture of global economics; it’s a rare thing to see these two done together, and done in such a skillful way.

By David Bacon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Illegal People as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For two decades veteran photojournalist David Bacon has documented the connections between labor, migration, and the global economy. In Illegal People Bacon explores the human side of globalization, exposing the many ways it uproots people in Latin America and Asia, driving them to migrate. At the same time, U.S. immigration policy makes the labor of those displaced people a crime in the United States. Illegal People explains why our national policy produces even more displacement, more migration, more immigration raids, and a more divided, polarized society.

Through interviews and on-the-spot reporting from both impoverished communities abroad and American immigrant workplaces…


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