Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Committee Member

Jiemin Bao

Second Committee Member

Heidi Swank

Third Committee Member

Rainier Spencer

Fourth Committee Member

Maria R. Casas

Number of Pages



As of 2008 the Border Patrol (BP) consisted of an unprecedented Hispanic majority due to heavy recruiting efforts among bilingual Mexican-American populations. Within the Mexico-U.S. border region where opportunities are otherwise limited a career with the BP provides the prospect of upward class mobility. This thesis explores the subjective experiences of seven Mexican-American BP agents from the El Paso Sector, ethnographically examining how they manage emotions to perform border guard roles. I argue that participants' subjective experiences offer insight into the larger structural forces that constrain role performance, the meaning of American identity, and the boundaries that prejudice division over affinity. As border guards these individuals are charged with enforcing immigration laws that maintain boundaries of social and economic inequality between American citizens and the migrant "other". Study participants are from deeply transnational communities and their responsibilities can elicit conflicting feelings between empathy for migrants and duty. As a result they must often manage emotions to suppress feelings not in-line with the unaffected masculine ideals of the BP. Experiencing and suppressing feeling for personal gain can exact an emotional toll, yet pride in their country and a sense of duty allow them to persevere.


Border patrol agents – Psychology; Border Patrols; Boundaries; Duty; Emotions; Emotional labor; Group identity; Identity (Psychology); Job stress; Mexican-Americans; North America – Mexican-American Border Region; U.S. Border Patrol


Ethnic Studies | Psychology

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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