Social Justice in the US-Mexico Border Region

  • Mark LuskEmail author
  • Kathleen Staudt
  • Eva M. Moya


This chapter introduces the book and its conceptual framework. The US-Mexico border region is defined as a geographic, economic, cultural, and social region that is affected by systematic social and economic injustice that has resulted in the social and economic problems that are evident throughout the region, including poverty, health inequities, and low-wage assembly, service, and agricultural employment. The endemic poverty coexists with institutional racism and gender violence. The region, while populated by resilient families and communities that have long confronted governmental neglect and social isolation, is at the periphery of the American economy. A brief summary of the history of the US-Mexico border region is included. The border region is distinct in its Mexican-American majority population, its location on a semi-porous border through which people and commodities flow under the close scrutiny of a huge law enforcement presence that further marginalizes residents on each side of the border. This chapter describes the social construction of events on the border as a “moral panic” in which immigrants are caricatured and the drug war is seen in apocalyptic terms.


Social Justice Border Region North American Free Trade Agreement Moral Panic Black Belt 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Abadie, A. (2006). Poverty, political freedom, and the roots of terrorism. The American Economic Review, 96(2), 50–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ackay, S. (2006). Corruption and human development. Cato Journal, 26(1), 29–48.Google Scholar
  3. Acuna, R. (1972). Occupied America: The Chicano’s struggle toward liberation. San Francisco: Canfield Press.Google Scholar
  4. Aguilar, J. (2010, September 2). Mexican reporter seeks asylum after doing his job. Retrieved from The Texas Tribune:
  5. Allen-Smith, J., Wimberley, R., & Morris, L. (2000, August). America’s forgotten people and places: Ending the legacy of poverty in the rural south. Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, 32(2), 310–329.Google Scholar
  6. Anbinder, T. (1992). Nativism and slavery: The northern know nothings and the politics of the 1850s. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2005). Kids count data book. Baltimore: Annie E. Casey Foundation.Google Scholar
  8. Archibold, R. (2010, June 19). On border violence, truth pales compared to ideas. Retrieved from New York Times:
  9. Associated Press. (2011, January 1). Mexico border city has record drug killings in ‘10. Retrieved June 16, 2011, from
  10. Bacevich, A. (2005). The new American militarism: How Americans are seduced by war. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Barrera, M. (1979). Race & class in the southwest: A theory of racial inequality. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.Google Scholar
  12. Bauer, K. (1974). The Mexican war, 1846–1848. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  13. Becker, A., & McDonnell, P. (2009, March 4). Drug war creates a new class of refugees. Retrieved from Los Angeles Times:
  14. Beinart, P. (2004, December 2). An argument for a new liberalism: A fighting faith. Retrieved from The New Republic:
  15. Billings, D., & Blee, K. (2000). The road to poverty: The making of wealth and hardship in Appalachia. Cambridge: The Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Borunda, D. (2009, February 29). Rights activist cites Mexican army abuses. Retrieved from El Paso Times:
  17. Calhoun, S., Reeder, R., & Bagi, F. (2000). Federal funds in the black belt. Rural America, 15(1), 20–27.Google Scholar
  18. Campbell, H. (2009). Drug war zone: Frontline dispatches from the streets of El Paso and Juárez. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  19. Camp, J. (2009) We know this place: Neoliberal racial regimes and the Katrina circumstance. American Quarterly, 61(3), 693–717.Google Scholar
  20. Carroll, R. (2010, September 3). Mexico drug war: The new killing field. Retrieved from The Guardian:
  21. Cherry, C. (1998). Introduction. In C. Cherry (Ed.), God’s new Israel: Religious interpretations of American destiny (pp. 2–20). Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.Google Scholar
  22. Cole, D. (2004). The priority of morality: The emergency constitution’s blind spot. The Yale Law Journal, 113(8), 1753–1800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Congressional Research Service. (2006). U.S. international borders: Brief facts. Retrieved from
  24. Cypher, J. (2007, June). From military keynesianism to global-neoliberal militarism. Monthly Review, 59(2), 37–55.Google Scholar
  25. Das, R., Steege, A., Baron, S., Beckman, J., & Harrison, R. (2001). Pesticide-related illness among migrant farm workers in the United States. International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, 7, 303–312.Google Scholar
  26. de Cosio, F., & Boadella, A. (1999). Demographic factors affecting U.S.-Mexico border health status. In M. Loustaunau & M. Sanchez-Bane (Eds.), Life, death, and in-between on the U.S. Mexico Border: Asi es la vida (pp. 1–22). London: Bergin and Garvey.Google Scholar
  27. Del Castillo, R. (1992). The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo: A legacy of conflict. Norman: The University of Oklahoma Press.Google Scholar
  28. DeNavas-Walt, C., Proctor, B., & Smith, J. (2009, September). Income, poverty, and health insurance coverage in the United States: 2008. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau. P60–236(RV).Google Scholar
  29. Department of Homeland Security [DHS]. (2005, November 2). Fact sheet: Secure border initiative. Retrieved June 15, 2011, from
  30. Department of Homeland Security [DHS]. (2010, February 1). Secretary Napolitano announces fiscal year 2011 budget request. Retrieved June 16, 2011, from Press Release:
  31. Direct Action and Training Network [DART]. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  32. Doty, R. (2009). The law into their own hands: Immigration and the politics of exceptionalism. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press.Google Scholar
  33. Dougherty, C. (2010, June 11). U.S. reaches racial milestone. Retrieved from The Wall Street Journal: 512006681060.html
  34. Dow, M. (2004). American gulag: Inside US immigration prisons. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  35. Dunn, T. (2009). Blockading the border and human rights: The El Paso operation that remade U.S. border enforcement. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  36. Ennis, S., Ríos-Vargas, M., & Albert, N. (2011, May). The Hispanic population: 2010. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau. 2010 Census Briefs. C2010BR-04.Google Scholar
  37. Faber, D. (2008). Capitalizing on environmental injustice: The polluter industrial complex in the age of globalization. Lanhan: Rowman and Littlefield.Google Scholar
  38. Filler, D. (2003). Terrorism, panic and pedophilia. Virginia Journal of Social Policy and the Law, 10, 345–382.Google Scholar
  39. Finnegan, W. (2010, July 26). Borderlines. The New Yorker, pp. 19–20.Google Scholar
  40. Foucault, M. (1995). Discipline & punish: The birth of the prison. New York: Vintage.Google Scholar
  41. Gamaliel. (2010). Retrieved from
  42. Gellman, S. (2002). The First Amendment in a time that tries men’s souls. Law and Contemporary Problems, 65(2), 87–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Gilman, N. (2003). Mandarins of the future: Modernization theory in cold war America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University.Google Scholar
  44. Giusti, C. (2010, April 19). Border communities: The case of colonias in Texas. Retrieved from International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam:
  45. Goffman, E. (1961). Asylums: Essays on the social situation of mental patients and other inmates. New York: Anchor.Google Scholar
  46. Good Neighbor Environmental Board [GNEB]. (2010). A blueprint for action on the U.S.-Mexico border. Thirteenth report of the Good Neighbor Environmental Board to the President and Congress of the United States. Washington, DC: GNEB.Google Scholar
  47. Goode, E., & Ben-Yehuda, N. (1994). Moral panics: The social construction of deviance. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  48. Gudridge, P. (2003). Remember “Endo”? Harvard Law Review, 116(7), 1933–1970.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Heyman, J., & Campbell, H. (2004). Recent research on the U.S. Mexico border. Latin American Research Review, 39(3), 205–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Huntington, S. (1996). The clash of civilizations and the remaking of world order. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  51. Huntington, S. (2004a, March/April). The Hispanic challenge. Foreign Policy, pp. 1–13.Google Scholar
  52. Huntington, S. (2004b). Who are we? The challenges to America’s national identity. The clash of civilizations and the remaking of world order. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  53. Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía. (2000). Censo de población y vivienda: Tasas especificas de participación económica por municipio [Population and housing census: Specific rates of economic participation by municipality]. Retrieved fromías/tabulados.asp@tabulado=tab_em04a&c=10279&eGoogle Scholar
  54. Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía. (2010). Conteo de población y vivienda 2005: Micro datos de muestra CPVII [Population and housing counting 2005: Microdata of sample CPVII]. Retrieved from Scholar
  55. Johnson, K. (1996). Aliens and the US immigration laws: The social and legal construction of nonpersons. University of Miami Inter-American Law Reviews, 28(2), 263–292.Google Scholar
  56. JRL. (2010, September 20). Abandonan Ciudad Juárez 230 mil personas en dos años [230 thousand people abandon Ciudad Juárez in two years]. Retrieved June 16, 2011, from Excelsior: Google Scholar
  57. Leon, L. (1999). Metaphor and place: The U.S.-Mexico border as center and periphery in the interpretation of religion. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 76(3), 541–571.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Lillis, M. (2010, February 10). The story of coal’s deadly, dirty legacy. Retrieved from The Washington Independent:
  59. Lipset, S. (1959). Some social requisites of democracy. American Political Science Review, 53(1), 69–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Lusk, M. (2010). International social development and counterdevelopment. Journal of Comparative Social Welfare, 26(2), 165–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Martínez, O. (1989). Troublesome border. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press.Google Scholar
  62. Martínez, O. (1994). Border people: Life and society in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.Google Scholar
  63. Michel, J., & Lara, F. (2003). Responding to development challenges and opportunities in the U.S.-Mexico border region. A report to the Director of the USAID in Mexico. Washington, DC: Caribbean Resources International.Google Scholar
  64. Mier, N., Ory, M., Zhan, D., Conkling, M., Sharkery, J., & Burdine, J. (2008). Health-related quality of life among Mexican-Americans living in colonias at the Texas-Mexico border. Social Science & Medicine, 66(8), 1760–1771.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Migration Information Source. (2010). The US Mexico border. Retrieved from
  66. Molano, A. (2005). The dispossessed: Chronicles of the desterrados of Colombia. Chicago: Haymarket Books.Google Scholar
  67. Mora-Torres, J. (2001). The making of the U.S.-Mexico border: The state, capitalism and society in Nuevo León, 1948–1919. Austin: The University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  68. National Association of Social Workers [NASW]. (2010). Social justice. Retrieved from
  69. Orr, M. (Ed.). (2007). Transforming the city: Community organizing and the challenges of political change. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.Google Scholar
  70. Ortiz Uribe, M. (2009, October 17). Human rights worker flees Mexico. Retrieved from National Public Radio:
  71. Paine, J. (2000). Assessing and identifying groundwater in the lower Rio Grande Valley Texas using airborne electromagnetic induction. Austin: Texas Water Development Board.Google Scholar
  72. Pan American Health Organization. (2007). Health of the Américas: United States-Mexico border area (Vol. II). Washington, DC: Pan American Health Organization.Google Scholar
  73. Paz, O. (1997). El laberinto de la soledad [The labyrinth of solitude]. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  74. Pearce, J. (2005). Inequality: Politics in the developing world. In P. Burnell & V. Randall (Eds.), Politics in the developing world (pp. 59–73). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  75. People Improving Communities Organization [PICO]. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  76. Peri, G. (2010, August 30). The effects of immigrants on the U.S. employment and productivity. Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Economic Newsletter, pp. 1–4.Google Scholar
  77. Petras, J. (2000). Geopolitics of plan Colombia. Economic and Political Weekly, 35(52/53), 4617–4623.Google Scholar
  78. Pizarro, E., & Gaitan, P. (2006). Plan Colombia and the Andean regional initiative: Lights and shadows. In B. Loveman (Ed.), Addicted to failure: U.S. security policy in the Andean region (pp. 53–79). Lanhan: Rowan and Littlefield.Google Scholar
  79. Regional Stakeholders Committee. (2009). The Paso del Norte region, US-Mexico: Self-evaluation report. Retrieved from OECD Reviews of Higher Education in Regional and City Development, IMHE:
  80. Rodríguez, O. (2010, December 7). Intervencion de ejercito norteamericano traeria guerrillas a Mexico. El Diario de El Paso, p. 4A.Google Scholar
  81. Romero, M., & Yellen, T. (2004). El Paso portraits: Women’s lives, potential & opportunities. A report on the state of women in El Paso, Texas. El Paso: YWCA and UTEP Center for Civic Engagement.Google Scholar
  82. Rosales, F. (1992). Chicano: The history of the Mexican American civil rights movement. Houston: University of Houston Press.Google Scholar
  83. Schriro, D. (2009). Immigration detention overview and recommendations. Washington, DC: Department of Homeland Security.Google Scholar
  84. Schulmeister, M. (2006). Rio Grande aquifer system. Retrieved from
  85. Schwaner, S., & Keil, T. (2003). Internal colonization, folk justice, and murder in Appalachia: The case of Kentucky. Journal of Criminal Justice, 32(3), 279–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Seelke, C. (2010). Mérida initiative for Mexico and Central América: Funding and policy issues. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service.Google Scholar
  87. Sen, A. (1999). Development as freedom. New York: Knopf.Google Scholar
  88. Sen, A. (2005). Human rights and human capabilities. Journal of Human Development, 6(2), 151–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Sen, A. (2010). The idea of justice. Cambridge: Harvard Belknap.Google Scholar
  90. Shamir, R. (2005). Without border? Notes on globalization as a mobility regime. Sociological Theory, 23(2), 197–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Shapleigh, E. (2008, September). Demographics of the frontier of the future. Texas borderlands 2009. El Paso: Texas Senator Eliot Shapleigh. District 29.Google Scholar
  92. Staudt, K. (2009). Violence at the border: Broadening the discourse to include feminism, human security, and deeper democracy. In Human rights along the U.S.-Mexico border: Gendered violence and insecurity (pp. 1–27). Tucson: University of Arizona Press.Google Scholar
  93. Staudt, K., & Coronado, I. (2002). Fronteras no más: Toward social justice at the U.S.-Mexico border. New York: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  94. Staudt, K., Payan, T., & Dunn, T. (2009). Bordering human rights, social democratic feminism, and broad-based security. In Human rights along the U.S.-Mexico border: Gendered violence and insecurity (pp. 185–202). Tucson: University of Arizona Press.Google Scholar
  95. Staudt, K., Fuentes, C., & Monárrez Fragoso, J. (Eds.). (2010). Cities and citizenship at the U.S.-Mexico border: The Paso del Norte metropolitan region. New York: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  96. Texas Secretary of State. (2010). Texas colonias: A thumbnail sketch of conditions, issues, challenges and opportunities. Retrieved from
  97. U.S. Census Bureau. (2005). Texas becomes nation’s newest majority-minority state. Retrieved from Census Bureau Announces:–118.htmlGoogle Scholar
  98. U.S. Census Bureau. (2008, August 14). An older and more diverse nation by midcentury. Retrieved June 15, 2011, from Newsroom:–123.htmlGoogle Scholar
  99. U.S.-Mexico Border Counties Coalition. (2006). At the cross roads: U.S.-Mexico border counties in transition. El Paso: University of Texas at El Paso/U.S.-Mexico Border Counties Coalition Institute for Policy Economic Development.Google Scholar
  100. U.S.-Mexico Border Counties Coalition. (2010). Coalition fact sheet. Retrieved from
  101. U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission [USMBHC]. (2002). Annual Report, October 2002. El Paso: U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission.Google Scholar
  102. U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission [USMBHC]. (2009). Situación de la tuberculosis en la frontera Mexico-Estados Unidos [the situation of tuberculosis in the border Mexico-United States]. El Paso: U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission.Google Scholar
  103. United Nations Development Programme. (2010). Human Development Report 2010. The real wealth of nations: Pathways to human development. 20th Anniversary Edition. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  104. United States Agency for International Development [USAID]. (2010). USAID budget: Mexico. Retrieved from USAID:
  105. Villette, C. (2005). Plan Colombia: A progress report. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service.Google Scholar
  106. Wimberley, R., & Morris, L. (1997). The southern black belt. Lexington: TVA Rural Studies.Google Scholar
  107. Washington Valdez, D. (2012, January 26). Special report: Calderón years trail other for Mexico homicides. El Paso Times, Retrieved from

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social Work, College of Health SciencesUniversity of Texas at El PasoEl PasoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of Texas at El PasoEl PasoUSA
  3. 3.Department of Social WorkUniversity of Texas at El PasoEl PasoUSA

Personalised recommendations