Corruption, State Agents under Surveillance, and the Business of Human Smuggling in 1920s Mexican Borderlands

Abraham Trejo Terreros, Colegio de Mexico

Following anthropological and historical perspectives on governmental corruption, I will focus on case studies where State agents were involved in schemes crossing undocumented migrants, both Mexican emigrants and international migrants in transit, through México in order to reach United States territory. My archival resources document State agents under surveillance for failing to meet what the migratory policies required. I argue that restrictions by both States of circulation of bodies through national borders fostered the professionalization of human smugglers as well as the corruption of State agents on both sides of the border. These two outcomes need to be studied in relation to each other. In my final comments, I connect the permissiveness of corruption within México to our understanding of the origins of human smuggling on the U.S.-Mexico border.

My presentation is divided into three parts: 1. A summary of policies towards Mexican emigration and international migrants in transit in the U.S.-Mexico border during the 1920s. 2. A proposed answer to why States register outlawed activities. I will discuss the following circumstances frequently presented in my case studies that help us better understand why the Mexican State decided to register human smuggling rings: 1) conflicts within State bureaucracies; 2) conflicts among private actors and the Mexican State; 3) conflicts within the human smuggling rings themselves; and 4) conflicts among migrants and human smugglers. 3. A presentation of the ways that State agents were involved in human smuggling rings. I will discuss corruption in relation to the functioning of migratory bureaucracy in post Revolution Mexico.