Rice sociologist evaluates working-class lives on the US-Mexico border

“Border Lives” is among the first books to show how the border has created both barriers and opportunities.
“Border Lives” is among the first books to show how the border has created both barriers and opportunities. | File photo

Sergio Chávez, an assistant professor of sociology at Rice University, recently published a book in which he evaluated the lives of working-class people who live along the border of Mexico.

Tijuana is infamous for its drugs, sex and crime, but it also hosts a varied, unique group of people who use the U.S. and Mexico to develop their livelihood.

The book, “Border Lives,” is among the first to show how the border has created both barriers and opportunities for working-class people living in Mexico. It emphasizes that unauthorized migrants with border-crossing cards build their quality of life in both countries, making their lives complicated and contradictory because of their strategies.

“The border is definitely a constraint,” Chávez said. “It limits the mobility of some individuals and families – based on who can and cannot cross the border. And because of this, it also limits the type of employment some individuals can pursue. Finally, it constrains social and familial relations, as some individuals can move freely back and forth across the border and others cannot. It impacts the time that these individuals can spend with their family and friends.”

Immigration policies and border enforcement have also changed how people who live along this border survive on a daily basis.

“Some individuals can capitalize on the best of both worlds if they have access to the proper documents,” Chávez said. “It allows them to convert U.S. wages into a Mexican standard of living without losing the social and cultural comforts of Tijuana as their home.”

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