100 books like Migra! A History of the U.S. Border

By Kelly Lytle Hernandez,

Here are 100 books that Migra! A History of the U.S. Border fans have personally recommended if you like Migra! A History of the U.S. Border. 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 Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Homeland Security

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?

The insistence that migration is a ‘crisis’ has led to a greater willingness to take enforcement as more urgent than human rights. Todd Miller’s book is a moral argument about the costs of that bargain. He argues that the powers given to those who enforce borders have led to abusive and violent practices at the border—and, increasingly, within the United States itself. The book is sobering, but important—and it should worry all of us, citizen and migrant alike.

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…


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 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 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 My Boy Will Die of Sorrow: A Memoir of Immigration from the Front Lines

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?

On the ground in courtrooms and jail cells when the Trump administration began separating migrant families, Efrén Olivares’s memoir is more than just the story of a lawyer fighting for his clients.

Olivares is also a migrant who knows what it’s like to have his family split apart by immigration laws. Read it for the play-by-play account of family separation in 2018 but enjoy it because in Olivares the future of migration breathes, walks, and fights back.

By Efrén C. Olivares,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My Boy Will Die of Sorrow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

INTERNATIONAL LATINO BOOK AWARD WINNER - The Raul Yzaguirre Best Political/Current Affairs Book

This deeply personal perspective from a human rights lawyer—whose work on the front lines of the fight against family separations in South Texas intertwines with his own story of immigrating to the United States at thirteen—reframes the United States' history as a nation of immigrants but also a nation against immigrants.

In the summer of 2018, Efrén C. Olivares found himself representing hundreds of immigrant families when Zero Tolerance separated thousands of children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. Twenty-five years earlier, he had been separated…


Book cover of Signs Preceding the End of the World

Steven Arntson Author Of The Wikkeling

From my list on short contemporary novels in translation.

Who am I?

My writing career has been in middle grade and YA, but as a reader I’m always trying to branch out. When I was a kid, literature opened the door to the whole world, and as an adult, I’m still exploring. When I read work in translation I can feel the literary connection to other writers and thinkers and simultaneously appreciate the differences that arise through geographic and cultural heritage. I hope my selections here might help readers like myself who enjoy reaching out to new voices and places.

Steven's book list on short contemporary novels in translation

Steven Arntson Why did Steven love this book?

Translated from Spanish and 128 pages in length, Herrera’s short novel is a beautiful evocation of one woman's journey from Latin America to the US. Evoked with the brushstrokes of a fairy tale and suffused with a luminous surreality, the book has stuck with me. This is Herrera’s first novel to be published in English, and it has made quite a splash, giving me hope that more will soon follow.

By Yuri Herrera, Lisa Dillman (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Signs Preceding the End of the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Signs Preceding the End of the World is one of the most arresting novels to be published in Spanish in the last ten years. Yuri Herrera does not simply write about the border between Mexico and the United States and those who cross it. He explores the crossings and translations people make in their minds and language as they move from one country to another, especially when there's no going back. Traversing this lonely territory is Makina, a young woman who knows only too well how to survive in a violent, macho world. Leaving behind her life in Mexico to…


Book cover of The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail

Shannon Lee Dawdy Author Of American Afterlives: Reinventing Death in the Twenty-First Century

From my list on by archaeologists for people who don't dig.

Who am I?

I was a quiet kid who had trouble understanding people. I preferred being on my own, exploring remnants of logging camps and abandoned mines in the woods that surrounded my small town. In archaeology, I found a way to improve my comprehension of humans and still go exploring the object world. For me, archaeology is not about the distant past, nor about a set of methods. Rather, it is a way of seeing the world. As I write, I try to help the reader train their own archaeological eye in order to re-calibrate their ideas about what is possible in the past, present, and future.

Shannon's book list on by archaeologists for people who don't dig

Shannon Lee Dawdy Why did Shannon love this book?

Archaeologists don't always focus on the distant past, and they don't always excavate. They comb the surface of landscapes, picking up material clues to human experiences that are often left undocumented. None more willfully buried in plain sight than the hardships of undocumented migrants trying to make it across the Sonoran desert and the brutal politics of the U.S.-Mexico border. With poignant photographs by collaborator Michael Wells, De Léon's account is unapologetically factual and deeply moving.

By Jason De Leon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Land of Open Graves as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In his gripping and provocative debut, anthropologist Jason De Leon sheds light on one of the most pressing political issues of our time-the human consequences of US immigration policy. The Land of Open Graves reveals the suffering and deaths that occur daily in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona as thousands of undocumented migrants attempt to cross the border from Mexico into the United States. Drawing on the four major fields of anthropology, De Leon uses an innovative combination of ethnography, archaeology, linguistics, and forensic science to produce a scathing critique of "Prevention through Deterrence," the federal border enforcement policy that…


Book cover of Luz

Judith Teitelman Author Of Guesthouse for Ganesha

From my list on exploring the search for sanctuary.

Who am I?

I have always been a seeker, fascinated by all cultures, philosophies, and spiritual perspectives. Although the concept is often different—for some, it’s a place of refuge, feeling safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or trouble; for others, it’s a state of being, an inner peace, I’ve found that the search for sanctuary—safe-haven—elsewhere—has ancient roots and contemporary reverberations. My novel, Guesthouse for Ganesha, further heightened my interest in this subject, for my protagonist, Esther Grünspan, both deeply wounded and unsafe, was compelled to seek sanctuary. As a first-time novelist with an 18-year journey to publication, I fully immersed myself in this topic’s study and comprehension.

Judith's book list on exploring the search for sanctuary

Judith Teitelman Why did Judith love this book?

In Debra Thomas’s compassionately rendered Luz, her protagonist’s (Alma) border crossing from Mexico into the United States is relayed in painful, harrowing, and often shocking detail. It is a powerful and, at times, difficult read. Yet an important one. I often forgot that this is a work of fiction, as the story Thomas so deftly portrays is all too common and all too real, especially for a resident of Southern California, which I am. However, it is one filled with hope and determination and the unwavering spirit of a young, passionate girl in search of answers.

By Debra Thomas,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Alma Cruz wishes her willful teenage daughter, Luz, could know the truth about her past, but there are things Luz can never know about the journey Alma took to the US to find her missing father. In 2000-three years after the disappearance of her father, who left Oaxaca to work on farms in California-Alma sets out on a perilous trek north with her sister, Rosa. What happens once she reaches the US is a journey from despair to hope. Timeless in its depiction of the depths of family devotion and the blaze of first love, Luz conveys, with compassion and…


Book cover of When I Wear My Alligator Boots: Narco-Culture in the U.S. Mexico Borderlands

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?

Muehlmann’s beautiful, gripping book reveals how cartels and drug violence are not separate from everyday life, but instead interwoven with almost all facets of life on the Mexican side of the US-Mexico border.

In a narrative style, she traces how everyday people unwittingly get into supporting the drug trade, or find themselves wrapped up in supporting traffickers without their knowledge. She also illustrates how the figure of the “narco” (drug trafficker) gets idealized in the borderlands. An incredible read for anyone interested in the complexity of the US-Mexico border.

By Shaylih Muehlmann,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked When I Wear My Alligator Boots as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When I Wear My Alligator Boots examines how the lives of dispossessed men and women are affected by the rise of narcotrafficking along the U.S.-Mexico border. In particular, the book explores a crucial tension at the heart of the "war on drugs": despite the violence and suffering brought on by drug cartels, for the rural poor in Mexico's north, narcotrafficking offers one of the few paths to upward mobility and is a powerful source of cultural meanings and local prestige. In the borderlands, traces of the drug trade are everywhere: from gang violence in cities to drug addiction in rural…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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