These are the memoirs of Clifford Alan Perkins, a personal record of his career with the Immigration Service and the Border Patrol from the “Chinese Invasion” of 1911 to the Laredo “housecleaning” of 1928. A final chapter jumps the narrative to Perkins’ retirement dinner in Tijuana in 1954. What the book contains is a sketchy account of border history as witnessed by one federal officer doing his duty in Tucson, El Paso, Douglas, Del Rio, Laredo, San Antonio, and points in between. This is a fast moving, action-packed story of Chinese aliens, Italian mafia smugglers, Mexican coyotes, Greek exiles, Mexican revolutionists, and drug dealers and munitions salesmen from many tribes and of any persuasion.
Along the road many interesting facts are uncovered, not the least being that of the intelligence work of Papago Indians who, having a “natural antipathy” for Chinese, were always ready to aid the Immigration Service in enforcing the Exclusion Act, or the seemingly unnatural alliance between Anglo bankers in El Paso and Villista slaughterhouse managers in Ciudad Juárez. Stock characters live in large numbers on Perkins’ frontier—soft-spoken Charlie Gardner lost his life over five cases of tequila and Charlie Sam controls the opium trade in El Paso’s Chinatown.
Border Patrol is a story told before, but one always fun to hear, especially around campfires in Mexicali. At times the words are inflated, but Perkins eventually emerges as a competent and credible eyewitness. C. L. Sonnichsen is to be complimented for his efforts in reshaping an overlarge manuscript with many expendable parts into a living document of border history. All and all, the book promises a fine time for historians.