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From: H-Net Staff via H-REVIEW <h-rev...@lists.h-net.org>
Date: Mon, Jun 22, 2020 at 6:28 PM
Subject: H-Net Review [H-Environment]: Klee on Salinas, 'Managed
Migrations: Growers, Farmworkers, and Border Enforcement in the Twentieth
To: <h-rev...@lists.h-net.org>
Cc: H-Net Staff <revh...@mail.h-net.org>

Cristina Salinas.  Managed Migrations: Growers, Farmworkers, and
Border Enforcement in the Twentieth Century.  Historia USA Series.
Austin  University of Texas Press, 2018.  xii + 272 pp.  $45.00
(cloth), ISBN 978-1-4773-1614-6.

Reviewed by Samuel Klee (Saint Louis University)
Published on H-Environment (June, 2020)
Commissioned by Daniella McCahey

Cristina Salinas's Managed Migrations: Growers, Farmworkers, and
Border Enforcement in the Twentieth Century is a splendid analysis of
farmworker mobility in the US-Mexico borderlands, focused largely on
Texas during the decades between 1920 and 1960. Salinas combines
booster literature, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and
Border Patrol records, diplomatic documents, and oral histories to
tell a lively narrative of movement and restriction. As lucid,
interdisciplinary work, Managed Migrations should be prized by
scholars of migrations, environments, and the carceral state.

Environmental historians will read three familiar threads through
Salinas's work. First, by showing that agriculture directed the
timing of labor migrations and growers' demands for laborers with
cyclical planting and off seasons, this book consistently features
nature as a character with agency. Sociopolitical relationships
between planters and growers only make sense through their mutual
ties to soil and plant timetables, and so Salinas echoes
environmental historians' call "to listen to people listening to
nature."[1] Second, Salinas engages environmental historians' concern
for textually and visually represented nature by foregrounding
depictions of landscapes and laborers in booster literature, grower
memoirs, and legal proceedings. Growers and borderland authorities
animalized Mexican migrants, controlled their movements, and
dominated their bodies through nature discourses and imagery. Third,
Salinas's attention to the multivalence of material structures
facilitates her argument that farmworkers reoriented infrastructure,
created for their suppression, to support their own financial and
community goals. Farmers used deliberately poor housing to remove
migrants at the ends of seasons, but migrants repurposed these
buildings, as well as American transportation infrastructure, to
achieve their own vision of mobility. _Managed Migrations_ thus
masterfully centers nature within the vast "web of labor controls"
encircling twentieth-century Mexican migrants (David Montejano,
quoted on p. 119).

Salinas's book is divided into six chapters, with an introduction and
epilogue. After outlining her argument and intervention in the
introduction, chapter 1 analyzes boosterism in the US-Mexico
borderlands. This chapter thrives on portrayals of nature. Salinas
demonstrates that, in the 1920s, land boosters positioned laborers as
part of the nature of the place, whose bodies and movements could be
purchased, manipulated, and cultivated with the landscape. Salinas's
vivid description of prospective land buyers' curated train journeys
is most fascinating. There, boosters manipulated passengers'
socio-material experience both in transit and on-site in the
borderlands, representing nonwhite bodies as commodities specific to
the borderlands in order to achieve buy-in. Ultimately, Salinas
argues that this discursive act about landscapes helped push plants
past livestock as the border region's primary export.

Chapter 2 moves from portrayals created for outsiders to
interpersonal borderland relationships between growers and laborers.
Here, Salinas demonstrates that growers and farmworkers used paternal
kinship language to negotiate mobility; both parties claimed growers'
protective and providential roles to achieve their respective
expectations and goals. Key for environmental historians, however,
Salinas foregrounds the built environment and its role in managing
worker mobility. Barracks, tents, and the lack thereof reflected and
enforced growers' relationship with farmworkers; growers sustained
their workers in season and pushed workers to leave afterward by only
providing farmworkers with bare structural necessities.

Chapter 3 then integrates the role of law, the Border Patrol, and the
INS into farmworker mobility. This chapter covers familiar ground in
immigration historiography--landmark federal acts like those of 1917
and 1924 receive treatment akin to Torrie Hester's _Deportation: The
Origins of US Policy _(2017) and Deborah Kang's _INS on the Line:
Making Immigration Law on the US-Mexico Border, 1917-1954
_(2017)--but Salinas foregrounds federal acts and agencies'
responsiveness to agriculture. Growers relied on deportation,
voluntary departure, and Border Patrol raids to manage farmworker
mobilities--and these federal measures were responsive to growers'
input. Agricultural leaders informed the "contours" of Border Patrol
practice and shaped federal actions on the ground (p. 113).

Having discussed growers and federal authorities, chapter 4 centers
labor contractors to complete the triplet of analyses about different
parties claiming control over farmworkers. Echoing Gunther Peck's
work on _Pardones _in the American West, in _Reinventing Free Labor:
Pardones and Immigrant Workers in the North American West: 1880-1930_
(2000), Salinas argues that, more than exploiting their workers,
Mexican contractors and their personal fortunes were deeply
intertwined with their workers' success. Farmers and government
officials, then, proliferated reputations of exploitative labor
agents to solidify their own control over farmworkers' mobilities.

Chapter 5 acts as a case study of the 1948 El Paso Incident, wherein
Mexican farmworkers crossed the Rio Grande in defiance of Mexican
military personnel to contract with American growers. Salinas's work
shines in this chapter. While the event has long been used to
understand transnational migration controls, Salinas centers nature
discourses as key to the incident. American officials dismissed
furious Mexican authorities by painting farmworkers with the "imagery
of [uncontrollable] animal migrations" (p. 152). As seen in chapter
1, Americans portrayed mobile creatureliness as part and parcel of
the borderland landscape, while simultaneously obscuring "the role
[they] played in facilitating such movement" (p. 153). On the other
hand, farmworkers were aware of the bargaining power they possessed
in numbers; as both Mexican and American authorities worked to
control their movements, mass movements afforded farmworkers agency.
Capturing this tension, Salinas closes the chapter with a symbolic
anecdote about a Juarez resident who fell while crossing the Rio
Grande over train tracks; the farmworker was a precarious figure,
accomplishing mobility on American infrastructure built for other

Chapter 6 concludes by returning to representation and its role in
restricting mobility. Addressing the midcentury divide between
Mexican migrants and Mexican Americans, Salinas deconstructs "What
Price, Wetbacks?"--a booklet published by the GI Forum and Texas
State Federation of Labor. Here, Salinas demonstrates that midcentury
Mexican American restrictionism depended on animalizing mobile
migrants as a kind of invasive species--blaming migrants for
"poverty, disease, and marginalization" in the United States (pp.

Salinas's epilogue brings the border into the present by reflecting
on her own oral history work in the region and encounters with the
walls and bridges that structure border movements. Since she has
substantially documented past depictions of the borderlands,
concluding with her own experiential knowledge is an appreciated
rhetorical move. But the epilogue also misses an
opportunity--particularly by foregoing a conversation with the
carceral state. Having described the duality of restriction and
mobility managed by both private and government authorities,
Salinas's work appears deeply relevant to carceral state scholarship.
Consonant with her book's take on the Border Patrol and INS, for
example, how would Salinas envision borderlands agriculture informing
mass migrant detention centers of the late twentieth and early
twenty-first centuries? The looming carceral state felt present yet

Salinas's book is, nevertheless, excellent. _Managed Migrations_
deftly connects immigration and environmental histories to explore
borderland farmworkers' mobilities. While never losing sight of
farmworker agency, Salinas demonstrates that a system of
relationships, representations, and policies instrumentalized nature
to dominate migrant bodies and the plantations they cultivated. The
book is comprehensive, beautifully crafted, and worth consideration
by scholars across the discipline.


[1]. Emily Wakild and Michelle K. Berry, _A Primer for Teaching
Environmental History: Ten Design Principles_ (Durham, NC: Duke
University Press, 2018), 8.

Citation: Samuel Klee. Review of Salinas, Cristina, _Managed
Migrations: Growers, Farmworkers, and Border Enforcement in the
Twentieth Century_. H-Environment, H-Net Reviews. June, 2020.
URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=54833

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States

Best regards,

Andrew Stewart
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