Dying to Live, annotated bibliography

Dying to Live by Joseph Nevins

The history in the reading begins from 1803 and continues through 2007. Nevins presents the concept that controlling the border between the U.S. and Mexico was not natural nor precisely related to national security, but rather a manifestation of centuries of sentiments of racial and economical superiority. “The boundary has always not only about who belongs and who does not, and thus who gets what, but also about the terms on which people and places from either side of the line relate to one another” (Nevins 78). The border developed as a way to separate not only countries, but cultures as well, and as America believed in its “Manifest Destiny” duty to conquer, what once was part of Mexico became America. The U.S. wanted Mexico’s land but rejected its inhabitants, only accepting them on the terms of inferior laborers that must be regulated.

There were certain requirements that Mexicans had to have in order to enter the United States. The United States did not close the door to all Mexicans; there were those who qualified to be part of the work force.

The new practices applied to Mexican migrants attempting to cross the boundary included (depending in the assessment and dictates of the U.S. immigrant inspectors at the official ports entry) vaccination, bathing, and delousing. Medical experts “desirable” or “undesirable” based on their health (90).

According to CIA, unauthorized Mexican migration was a greater future threat to the United States than the Soviet Union because they would infiltrate and corrupt society.

Those who are not welcomed: imbeciles, idiots, feeble-minded persons, persons of constitutional psychopathic inferiority—a category that included pathological liars and persons with abnormal sexual instincts (homosexuals)—vagrants, physical defectives, chronic alcoholics, polygamist, anarchists, persons afflicted with loathsome or dangerous diseases, prostitutes, contract laborers, and all aliens over 16 years old who could not read (109).

Those who are welcomed: “Any Mexican citizen of good character may obtain an American Visitors Card, good at any time” (108).

Thus, controlling the border between the two countries has been not only to simply keep the land but also to maintain the pure race and the language. It can be said that the concept of border controlling is based on the roots of American nativism from the English colonial period.

Further Information:

Treaty of Guadalupe

Proposition 187

Braseros Program

“Operation Wetback”



Dying to live, (the film)


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