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This Article is about the proliferation of private actors playing a role at the “broken border.” The Introduction of this Article sets out the conceptual framework for the Article and provides the roadmap for each part. Part I examines which private actors and corporations have increased their role at the US-Mexico border. These actors include multinational corporations including Mexican-sited factories (maquiladoras) and US government contractors engaging in national security work, as well as criminal organizations like human smugglers (polleros and coyotes) and drug cartels (narcotraficantes) from the Mexico side, and the border vigilantes, such as the Minutemen and American Border Patrol, on the US side.

Part II then examines the reasons why the role of private actors is expanding. These include various regional attempts by the US, Mexican, and Canadian governments to regulate border trade including NAFTA and the Security and Prosperity Partnership. There have also been bilateral (US-Mexico) attempts to fix the so-called “broken border” like the Merida Initiative. Many of these initiatives have provided a windfall for multinational corporations. Corporations have enjoyed the comparative advantages that come with a regional economy: reduction and elimination of trade barriers, a North American supply chain, and the ability for investors to sue sovereign states for lost profits incurred through nationalization, like takings or expropriation. There have also been many opportunities to contract for the US, Canadian, and Mexican governments.

Part III argues that the expanded activities of private actors should be better regulated, and in the case of criminal organizations, stopped. The broadening of the canvas of individual networks that work along the border provides an opportunity to broaden the canvas of private actors. There are many layers of motive, but economic interest is the overwhelming reason. Finally, Part IV provides some concluding ideas concerning new forms of sovereignty and provides a call for more action among states to secure their respective borders in the context of the wars on drugs and on terror while also facilitating trade through managed borders to provide for economic growth and increased opportunity in legitimate activities.