Patrolling Chaos: The U.S. Border Patrol in Deep South Texas.
By Robert Lee Maril. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2004. ISBN-13 978-0-89672-594-2 (pbk) 368 pages. $24.95 http://www.ttup.ttu.edu/
This book is real – real life of border patrolling, and it’s messy. Experienced sociologist and book author, Maril spent several long months living the work and private lives of a dozen agents on the McAllen border. His intent to “understand” the agents and their world comes out honest and clear. His sharp prose and psychological insights leave the reader feeling the wrinkles on the agent’s tanned faces and hands, the family strains, the hardship of solitary midnight duty, in the dark, often subject to danger from narcotraficantes and immigration coyotes.
The chaos comes from the agents existing in a kaleidoscopic world where the illegals are unpredictable, the bizarre, surreal federal bureaucracy functions in la-la land, practicalities of daily living emerge, and frequent social disdain covers entanglements. All this is back-grounded by the obvious reality that the border is not under control.
Maril’s book can be viewed in four perspectives – agents’ work and lives, historical retrospectives, and the rigid, politically driven policies and rules.
Yes, incompetence, bribery, beyond-dumbness on many sides, racism, and violence all play a role. And the agents, most good, honest folks, show up for shift work each day to patrol your Texas border. Maril puts you there, and he does it well.