people standing on the beach near a long fence made out of sticks standing straight up

“Tijuana Fence,” (2006) by Natt Muangsiri is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Instructor: Professor Michel Hogue

Build that wall? In the past few years, the conversations about immigration and border enforcement that have long been present in American political life have emerged as the most pressing and vital questions facing the United States. And, over the past year, these conversations have reached a fever pitch. The heated discussions about banning migrants, building walls, and accelerating deportations—though remarkable for their scope, scale, and intensity—are not entirely unprecedented. Questions about who should be allowed to move across national boundaries—to travel, trade, raid, marry, work, or settle—have long provoked fierce debate. Indeed, the process of constructing and enforcing borders in North America has typically prompted searching questions about belonging. Along the territorial edges of nation-states, such questions about belonging resonate in profound ways.

This course focuses on the historical experiences of migration and border-making in an effort to place current conversations about border enforcement in the United States in a broader historical context. It will examine the efforts to construct and enforce the country’s boundaries with Mexico and Canada, and along the Pacific Rim, in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries and the ways that Indigenous peoples, settlers, and migrants both shaped and were shaped by those efforts. In so doing, we will seek to explore both the policies designed to regulate the movement of people across borders and the actual practices that emerged on the ground. By paying close attention to the migration stories from these borderlands we will see how national boundaries have long been the sites of struggles and how these historical struggles can shed new light on modern debates.


Required Readings (note that these are subject to change):

In the past, I have used the following readings:

  • Judy Yung and Erika Lee, Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.
  • Kelly Lytle Hernández, Migra!: A History of the U.S. Border Patrol. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2010.
  • Margaret Regan. Detained and Deported: Stories of Immigrant Families Under Fire. Boston: Beacon Press, 2015.

Course Requirements and Assignments:

I have not yet settled on the course assignments, though these assignments will be designed to help you refine your core reading, writing, and analytical skills. In the past, the assignments for this course have included book reviews, blog assignments, and quizzes.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at