The U.S. Coast Guard's War on Human Smuggling

Dennis L. Noble

Foreword by James C. Bradford and Gene A. Smith, Series Editors
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Puts a human face on both undocumented migrants and those who enforce policy

"Illustrates the complexities and heartbreak of attempting to enforce U.S. immigration laws." --David Kyle, University of California, Davis

"Noble skillfully interweaves tales of bravery, compassion and skill on the part of U.S. Coast Guard servicemen with moving portraits of those willing to risk their lives in dank, overcrowded holds and on rickety rafts for a chance at a new life in the U.S."--Kelly M. Greenhill, author of Weapons of Mass Migration: Forced Displacement, Coercion and Foreign Policy

Of all the hot-button issues facing the United States in the early twenty-first century, perhaps none is presently generating more passion than illegal immigration. But what the vociferous public debates and sound bites often miss is that the story is far larger than the land border with Mexico.

The U.S. Coast Guard has been charged with preventing undocumented migrants from entering the country for its entire existence. Best known, perhaps, for rescuing lives and preventing the smuggling of goods, the USCG is the only branch of the armed forces actually charged with law enforcement.

Dennis Noble highlights the policies, strategy, and tactics used by the U.S. Coast Guard in enforcing immigration laws. But throughout, the focus remains on the human stories--both those of the small group of men and women charged with carrying out a difficult mission as well as those of the desperate men and women willing to risk their lives for a chance to escape crushing poverty or persecution.

In many cases, the service’s interdiction responsibilities go hand in glove with rescue operations. As Rear Admiral Arthur E. Brooks puts it, "You can’t do migrant operations without having your heart broken. "

Dennis L. Noble retired from the U.S. Coast Guard as a Senior Chief Marine Science Technician. He is the author of numerous articles and a dozen books, including The Rescue of the Gale Runner and Captain "Hell Roaring" Mike Healy. A past recipient of the U.S. Coast Guard Distinguished Public Service Award, he lives in Sequim, Washington.

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Foundation for Coast Guard History Best Book Award - 2012

"The author describes the enormously diverse and imaginative activity of smuggling desperate and disparate people very well. Equally, he illuminates very clearly one of the Coast Guard's more thankless tasks."--Baird Maritime
--Baird Maritime

"While the immigration debate is typically focused on the US-Mexican border, Noble brings attention to the dangers and difficulties that maritime routes pose to undocumented migrants attempting to enter the US, as well as to the US Coast Guard, which is charged with them intercepting them. Throughout the book, Noble details the confusing and inconsistent nature of the US immigration policies and indicates how conflicting policies act to complicate US Coast Guard interception efforts. Through his extensive use of interviews, the author provides an in-depth look at the human side of the immigration debate from the perspective of the men and women involved in enforcing US immigration laws as well as those attempting to enter the US."--M.L. Keck for CHOICE

"Noble clearly articulates the challenges of the Coast Guard's mission with regard to immigration. Migrants routinely underestimate the preparations necessary for safe boating in oceanic waters and then compound the problem by overcrowding their vessels. This overcrowding can lead to capsizing during a rescue operation as migrants crowd to the side of the vessel nearest the Coast Guard cutter performing the rescue. Even when well-provisioned boats from Florida are employed, as in the case of the Mariel Boatlift, navigation challenges and other issues frequently require rescue by the Coast Guard. While the physical difficulties are plainly presented, Noble emphasizes the reaction of Guardsmen to the plight of migrants. In interview after interview, Guardsmen related the emotional attachments they developed for those they intercept at sea and how the resulting empathy complicated their attitude toward their mission. Noble provides several moving and compelling accounts of migrants seeking passage to the United States who find a way into the hearts of members of the Coast Guard. Noble succeeds in his objective of placing a human face on those who enforce U.S. immigration policy at sea by writing a popular history. In fact, this is popular history at its best. Noble is clearly versed in the relevant archival materials and uses interviews and newspaper accounts to bring the story to life. This important book is recommended to the specialist and the general reader."
--Southern Historian, XXXIII

"Noble has taken on the skills of an historian and through personal interviews, careful research and skilled writing he has crafted an important story, one that continues to unfold around us."
--Florida Historical Quarterly

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