Labor Markets and the Public Relations of Immigration Control

John W. Weber, Old Dominion University

This paper will examine the relationship between immigration control and labor markets throughout the twentieth century, focusing in particular on a series of scattered but related enforcement actions that took place in Texas in the 1920s, 1950s, and 1990s. These discrete episodes (a smuggling scheme run through the Laredo office of the Border Patrol in the mid-1920s, the INS’s Operation Wetback campaign in the 1950s, and the Clinton-era Operation Hold the Line) occurred at very different times in the institutional history of the modern gatekeeper state, but each represented a remarkably similar method of projecting an illusion of control that had little if any effect on the ability of employers north of the border to find and exploit the supposedly managed labor flows. These three episodes, in other words, illustrate a clear continuity of border enforcement since the early twentieth century.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 117. Dubious Data: The Politics and Myth of Border and Migrant Policing