This article examines the dynamic interactions between Mexican women who sought to circumvent their sexual regulation at the U.S.-Mexico border, and U.S. immigration officials who enforced these regulations and policed these women's bodies in the early twentieth century. Using the transcripts of the board of special inquiry (BSI)—a panel that deliberated over the admission of excludable immigrants and oversaw accompanying interrogations—I contend that, while the BSI operated to encode corporeally Mexican female immigrants as sexually deviant, it simultaneously served as a stage for them to respond with their own performances of crossing. In the interrogation room, women performed a slew of admissible identities, including the devoted mother, aggrieved woman, and hard-working laborer. When those attempts to cross failed, women did not simply return home. Instead, many re-crossed until they reached their intended destination. Thus, the BSI served as a site for Mexican female border crossers to both uphold and challenge the production of heteropatriarchal notions of marriage. These findings contribute to the growing literature on U.S. border enforcement in the early twentieth century and uncover the (dis)order of a growing U.S. bureaucratic infrastructure based on sexual and gendered regulation.
Staging Crossings: Policing Intimacy and Performing Respectability at the U.S.-Mexico Border, 1907–1917
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Celeste R. Menchaca; Staging Crossings: Policing Intimacy and Performing Respectability at the U.S.-Mexico Border, 1907–1917. Pacific Historical Review 1 February 2020; 89 (1): 16–43. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/phr.2020.89.1.16
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