ToniAnn Trevino, University of Michigan and C.J. Alvarez, University of Texas at Austin | Newberry

ToniAnn Trevino, University of Michigan and C.J. Alvarez, University of Texas at Austin

Friday, January 15, 2016

3 to 5pm

Room B-84

Center for American History and Culture Programs
Borderlands and Latino/a Studies Seminar

Narcotics, Family Networks, and State Imposition of Stigma: Policing the Mexican Community in Texas Through Kinship, 1951-1959


ToniAnn D. Treviño University of Michigan, Ann Arbor


In 1955, the Senate Subcommittee on Illicit Narcotics Traffic conducted 14 hearings across the nation in locations framed as bastions of narcotics traffic and addiction. With five meeting locations in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio, Texas hosted the highest number of hearings in an individual state. As a site with a large Mexican American and Mexican immigrant population, Texas was at the forefront of proposing national solutions to “The Mexican Problem,” enforcing narcotics control on the border, and preventing the passage of “undesirable” Mexican immigrants.


This paper investigates how federal and local officials viewed Mexican families as potential threats due to kinship networks that allegedly doubled as criminal affiliations. Although U.S. immigration law ideologically privileges the family unit, 1950s initiatives in immigration and narcotics control intersected to investigate kinship networks in Mexican communities as potential criminal connections.State surveillance over Mexican communities investigated unwieldy masculinities and femininities as markers of criminality, while federal policymakerssimultaneouslyadvocated for heightened minimum sentencing, increased border policing to decrease the flow of Mexican narcotics and immigrants, and heightened INS inspection of Mexican bodies.As a case study thatplaces theTexas in context with nationalantinarcotics crusades, this work considersthe ways in which state actors, local law enforcement officers, and senate hearing witnesses created animage of Mexican criminality centered ondeviant families and domesticity. Federal lawmakers framed white addicts as victimswhen comparedto the innate, familial inclinations of Mexican crime and addiction. This work further asserts that local law enforcement officers documented the Mexican criminal image through photographs of Mexican domestic spaces disrupted during drug raids,and the spatial mappingof criminal Mexican homes in the racialized, urban geography.


The Militarizations of the United States-Mexico Border.”


C.J. Alvarez, University of Texas at Austin


I am currently writing a journal article tentatively called “The Militarizations of the United States-Mexico Border.” I begin by explaining how the domestic parameters for both the U.S. and Mexican armed forces were established in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, respectively. In the United States, military rule of the South during Reconstruction prompted a retrenchment of the Army as a domestic policing agency, whereas in Mexico the dismantling of the Porfirian Army and reconstitution of a revolutionary military had the opposite effect of embedding the armed forces within and against segments of Mexican society. I move on to the mid-twentieth century to explain how Mexican American activists began to use the term “militarization” in the 1940s and ‘50s to describe activities of the INS and Border Patrol they found distasteful, while at the same time, especially during and after the Alemán presidency, policing organizations in Mexico were increasingly either officially governed by, or subordinate to, active duty military officers. I conclude with a historiographic critique of the ahistorical and imprecise use of the term “militarization” to describe aspects of the growing immigration industrial complex on the U.S. side, and suggest instead it is more usefully and accurately applied to the actual tradition, and in recent years expansion, of militarization in Mexican law enforcement.


Commentators: Kathleen Belew, University of Chicago and Lina Britto, Northwestern University

Cost and Registration Information 

Scholl Center Seminar papers are pre-circulated electronically. For a copy of the paper, email the Scholl Center at scholl@newberry.org. Please do not request a paper unless you plan to attend.