The Legacy of Racism within the U.S. Border Patrol

Katy Murdza and Walter Ewing
Date of Publication: 
February, 2021
Source Organization: 

Since its creation roughly a century ago, the U.S. Border Patrol has been steeped in institutional racism and committed violent acts with near impunity. The agency was tasked from the very beginning with rounding up immigrants deemed “racially undesirable,” namely migrants from China, other Asian countries, and nations in southern and eastern Europe. As time went on, migrants from Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, the Caribbean Basin, and eventually Africa became the primary targets. Throughout its history, the Border Patrol has stereotyped and dehumanized the targets of its enforcement actions, often committing violence against them while suffering little or no legal consequences for this violence. The agency reveals little to the public or Congress about how it operates and largely gives its officers autonomy in the field. Border Patrol agents are rarely disciplined for misconduct, even when it results in death. Despite this lack of transparency and accountability, the budget, workforce, and arsenal of the agency have grown exponentially over the decades. The time is long overdue for vigorous oversight and strict adherence to the rule of law to rein in the Border Patrol’s excesses. Just as importantly, the Biden administration and Congress must work to change the culture of the Border Patrol so that its agents no longer perceive of themselves as being in a purely adversarial relationship with the people they encounter along the border.

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Murdza, K. & Ewing, W. (2021, February). The Legacy of Racism within the U.S. Border Patrol. American Immigration Council.