SDSU Press editorial/marketing associate
|Professor Steven W. Bender|
How the West Was Juan creatively approaches the current political stalemate over restrictive v. compassionate border policy by imagining a different U.S.-Mexico border, one that returns to the early 1800s U.S.-Mexico border. Steven Bender is a national academic leader on immigration law and policy, as well as an expert in real estate law. Among his honors, the Minority Groups Section of the Association of American Law Schools presented him with the C. Clyde Ferguson, Jr., Award, a prestigious national award recognizing scholarly reputation, mentoring of junior faculty, and teaching excellence.
Exclusive Interview with Professor Steven W. Bender
David Ornelas: In your book, we get to fully understand the Anglo migration to Mexico and Alto Mexico, then Mexico migration to Alto Mexico. What are your thoughts of this sense of this perverse prison we call “reality?”
David Ornelas: Having written different books encompassing legal, cultural, political and historical issues, which category do you feel your book, “How the West Was Juan: Re imagining the U.S. / Mexico Border” falls under? If they all apply to your book, can you explain which one and their connection?Professor Steven Bender: Although I am trained as a legal scholar, I am also steeped in the values and practices of critical Outsider scholarship. One of these values is the salience of critical histories in examining laws, policies, and practices of the present and their origins and motivations. I routinely excavate these histories as I did in How the West Was Juan. I don’t think you can tell a legal story without regard to history. Nor, as the grandson of two Mexican immigrants, can I tell a legal story divorced from the culture of my community and my background, having been born and raised in the East Los Angeles area in a Mexican American household by a Mexican mother and Mexican stepfather. Culture runs deep in my life, and I examine it, question it, while cherishing it daily.
David Ornelas: When writing your book, did you feel there was this idea of inaccuracy of our traditional history books that needs to be fixed in order for it to be accurate? If so, which certain topics should we dig deep into when considering histories’ inaccuracy?
David Ornelas: You state the book is devoted to asking the question, “with this critical history of U.S. ownership origins rooted in slavery, what now?” So from your standpoint, what now? Where do we go from here?
David Ornelas: Is your book different or similar to your other published works in terms of the story you’re trying to convey?
David Ornelas: Which claims or points does your book challenge when it comes to the past and present history of the U.S./Mexico Border?
David Ornelas: When reading your book, is there a specific part we should focus on when forming our own thoughts on the U.S./Mexico Border?
David Ornelas: The U.S./Mexico Border has been widely discussed in the past 7-8 years. When writing your book, which outside information did you focus on that you mentioned in your book? Was it politically driven or focusing on one certain key point that you want you reader’s to take into consideration when forming their own thoughts?
David Ornelas: As stated before, the U.S./Mexico Border has been in the front line for years now. Many stories surrounding immigration and migration. Why did you choose to focus a good portion of your book on the migration Anglo migration to Mexico and Alto migration, then Mexico migration to Alto Mexico?
Professor Steven Bender: My book in no way invites a forcible or even political reconquest of the Southwest back to Mexico control, but instead offers a novel lens for readers to think about the contentious issues we associate with the current U.S.-Mexico border and which divide so many. Ultimately, I hope that readers emerge with a sense of the connectedness of the two countries, whose legacies and futures are bound together as a writer once described the Rio Grande and the communities of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez on either side—“The river instead of separating them . . . bound them together.”