Common Punishments for Common Crimes: The Early Mann Act and Sexual Control in the United States and Its Southern Border

Grace Peña Delgado, Assistant Professor of History at UCSC, discusses the history of sex trafficking in North America and the nexus of sexual policing and American immigration control in this free, public lecture on Friday, May 30, 2014, 12:00-1:30pm, in the Charles E. Merrill Lounge.

May 19, 2014

Health Inspection Card of Guadalupe Campos, 1912 Registry of Prostitutes, Archivo Histórico de Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico.

This talk examines the activities of prostitutes and immigration officials at the US-Mexico borderlands during the early twentieth century to illuminate the legal and bureaucratic origins of sexual policing and American immigration control.  The anti-white slavery movement, and the legislation it spawned, created a broad corpus of personal relationships from which innumerable immoralities were constructed and various sex crimes were newly demarcated.  Several amendments to existing anti-white slave traffic laws emboldened lawmakers to initiate an assault on non-marital, consensual, heterosexual, intimate activity by both expanding the meaning of criminal immorality and creating new identifications of prurience in which marriage for immigrant women wanting to remain in the United States would serve as a singular corrective to deportation.  When prostitutes—and those accused as such—crossed into the United States to ply their trade and when US immigration inspectors attempted to prevent them for doing so, these exchanges made observable a contested borderlands landscape where national and international anxieties about sexual practice and sexual self-control clarified what it meant to be a morally-suitable border-crosser and eventual citizen of the United States.  A variety of practices to govern immigrant women’s bodies formed a regime of immigration control that gave wide force to the meaning of sexual suitability and social belonging in the United States and its southern border.

GPeñaDelgado.HeadshotGrace Peña Delgado is Assistant Professor in the Department of History at UC Santa Cruz.  She is the author of Making the Chinese Mexican:  Global Migration, Exclusion, and Localism in the US-Mexico Borderlands (Stanford University Press, 2012) and the award-winning article "Border Control and Sexual Policing: White Slavery and Prostitution along the US-Mexico Borderlands, 1903-1910" (Western Historical Quarterly, Summer 2012).  Her research, writing, and teaching focus on the North American borderlands (Canada, US, Mexico), Chinese in the Americas, race and nationalism, and sexuality and morals policiing.

This free, public event is sponsored by the Chicano Latino Research Center Politics of Forced Migration Research Cluster.