The Dark History of “Gasoline Baths” at the Border

An alarming US border policy forced fumigations on migrants at the US-Mexico border.

In 1917, American health officials launched a campaign to use noxious, often toxic chemicals to delouse immigrants seeking to enter at the US-Mexico border. The same practice had caused a fire in an El Paso jail the year before and killed 27 people.

17-year-old Juárez maid Carmelita Torres refused to go through it, sparking a protest of thousands of Mexicans at the El Paso border. Although they briefly shut down the border, the campaign would continue for decades — and go on to inspire Nazi scientists.