Enforcing the Borders: ChineseExclusion along the U.S. Borderswith Canada and Mexico, 1882-1924Erika LeeThere is no part [of the northern border] over which a Chinaman may not passinto our country without fear of hinderance; there are scarcely any parts of it wherehe may not walk boldly across it at high noon.-Journalist Julian Ralph, 1891There is a broad expanse of land with an imaginary line, all passable, all being used,all leading to the United States. The vigilance of your officers stationed along theborder is always keen, but what can a handful of people do? It is a deplorable con-dition of affairs; we seem to be compelled to bear it; the Chinese do come in fromMexico.-U.S. Immigrant Inspector Marcus Braun, 1907In September 1924 a Chinese male immigrant named Lim Wah entered the UnitedStates illegally from Mexico. His goals were to find work and to join his father, a farmlaborer in northern California. Legally excluded from the United States, Lim paid anAmerican $200 to bring him from Mexicali, Mexico, to Calexico, California. Theywaited until night and then crossed the border, ending up in San Francisco three dayslater. The Chinese exclusion laws (in effect from 1882 to 1943) greatly hinderedChinese immigration to the United States, but as Lim Wahs case demonstrates, theydid not serve as the total barriers that exclusionists had hoped for. Deterioratingpolitical and economic conditions in south China, the availability of jobs in theUnited States, the U.S. Bureau of Immigration's harsh enforcement procedures atregular ports of entry such as San Francisco, and the Chinese belief that the exclusionlaws were unjust-all had the unintended consequence of turning illegal immigra-tion via the borders into a profitable and thriving business.1Erika Lee is assistant professor of history at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.