A young man graduates from college where his major was international relations and where he developed an interest in border politics and joins the border patrol. He discovers that life isn’t fair, that decent people get hurt, and that bad guys often do win. He also finds out that killing and endangering lives is a part of law enforcement work and that law enforcement jobs are not for everyone.
The author then quits the border patrol and begins to virtue signal about helping a nice man with a family who is caught in the crack-down on illegal entry. The man had been in the USA illegally for 30 years and had 3 children–all American citizens. After 16 to 18 years of marriage, his wife still speaks no English, his children, educated here, speak broken English. This undocumented immigrant’s path to citizenship was pretty much assured if he just stayed put until his eldest son was 18, which was only 2 or 3 years to go.
Instead, he risks all and tries to go home to be with his mother at her death. The author, Francisco (once named Joshua Tyler) acts as his advocate and translated–all very good and noble and we need more such volunteers in courts everywhere. Never once does he question anything but that the man had been here 30 years and “should” be a citizen–he is the right kind of person. No arguing with the good person thing, but why did he never seek to normalize his status?
I am surprised, yes I know they have a strong liberal bias, that NPR regarded this book so highly. The first part perhaps deserved the praise. The rest? I was very disappointed in the last half of this book. The author’s biggest interest seemed in making a name for himself before applying to graduate school. He tries to make this book–especially the end–more impressive by interesting poetry and quotes from Mexican authors. The ploy may have gotten him a great fellowship for grad school (I do not know) but it did not save the book.
Thank you to Readerbuzz who made me aware of this book.
The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border by Francisco Cantú