A glossary of terms associated with researching border crossings to and from Mexico.

Arrival Manifests

Record of an alien’s legal entry into the United States. Contains information relevant to alien’s admission under U.S. immigration law. Mexican Border arrival manifests (or records) include a variety of documents: Card manifests, sheet manifests, manifest index cards, etc.

Border Crossing Card/Identification Card/Border Permit Card

Mexican Border Crossing in El paso Texas, 1917

Mexican Border Crossing in El paso Texas, 1917

Identification cards introduced c. 1918 to facilitate routine commuter traffic across the Border. Generally issued to aliens and U.S. citizens living within 10 miles either side of the US/Mexican Border. Applications and/or duplicate cards, typically bearing photographs, were filed in the Mexican Border Arrival Record sets. Click here to view a 1921 Border Crossing Card.

Immigrant

An alien admitted to the United States and expected to reside permanently in the United States.

Nonimmigrant

An alien admitted to the United States temporarily; typically a student, tourist, or commuter/visitor for business or pleasure.

Nonimmigrant Visa

Foreign Service Form FS 257, introduced 1924, filed in Border arrival records until July, 1947. (Immigrant visas filed in Washington, DC, since 1924.)

Quota

From the immigration acts of 1921 and 1924, which imposed numerical limits on immigration from countries subject to quotas. An alien from a quota country could be classified as a “quota immigrant” or a “quota nonimmigrant.” European countries were all subject to quotas, thus Europeans applying for admission at a US/Mexican Border port would have been classified as “quota.”

Non-quota

From the immigration acts of 1921 and 1924. Non-quota aliens generally were 1) spouses or dependents of U.S. citizens, 2) returning alien residents, or 3) natives of Western Hemisphere countries, which were not subject to quotas (i.e., natives of Mexico, Canada, or other independent country of Central or South America).

Statistical

Classification of aliens used on US/Mexican Border. The term was used differently before and after implementation of the Immigration Act of 1924:
Pre-1924: Immigrant and nonimmigrant aliens subject to the Head Tax (generally, those not native to the Western Hemisphere and coming for permanent residence in the United States).
Post-1924: Immigrants coming for permanent residence and nonimmigrants coming for more than six months.

Nonstatistical

Pre-1924: Immigrant and nonimmigrant aliens not subject to the Head Tax (generally, natives of the Western Hemisphere).
Post-1924: Non-quota nonimmigrants admitted temporarily (generally commuters, and laborers entering for less than six months).

Visitor’s Permit

Form I-94, introduced c. 1942, filed with border records until July, 1947.