Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS)


Mexican American Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Miguel Diaz-Barriga

Second Advisor

Dr. Stephanie Alvarez

Third Advisor

Dr. Margaret Dorsey


This thesis summarizes recent human smuggling scholarship and provides ethnographic insights into migrant smuggling in a border zone that is my home. Through exploring my own experiences and observations of smuggling and militarized border policing, and those of other interlocutors in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, I advance nuanced understandings of the symbiotic processes of irregular migration and of the people who brokerage a great deal of these journeys across militarized borders. I analyze fieldnotes that highlight the quotidian realms in which gender and power play out when irregular migration takes place and argue that acts of border militarization create the liminal and undetermined outcomes of irregular crossings gone wrong. I also explore the life story and smuggling narratives of Milagros to show how her experiences of persecution, prosecution and incarceration reverberated beyond her body and into my own. I argue that the latter experiences and ensuing criminal reverberations are direct results of border security policies and militarized border policing tactics in action that are setting off trends of criminalization.


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