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It's hard to hear "Dispatches" in a title without thinking of Michael Herr's Dispatches, the Vietnam War classic. Cantú's dispatches are from a different, less extreme kind of war, one that has been slowly simmering for years on the southern border. Cantú took some flak when the book was published for having worked in border enforcement at all, and the first parts of the book do focus on this experience, but he takes no joy in it. He's simply honest. Border Patrol agents have a nasty job to do, but they also save lives. The central problem is U.S. immigration policy, which is founded on a slippery slope fallacy and badly in need of reform. This is not a policy book, but it serves as a powerful argument for a more humanitarian immigration system. (less)
I thought this was an excellent, gripping account of one person's experience as a US Border Agent on the Mexican border. The style is perfect, reflecting as it does times of intense involvement, acute observation and thoughtful reflection over a period of several years. The fact that the book has attracted intense criticism from both sides of the debate over immigration policy might well be a sign that Cantú got it right: this is a very complex problem with searing human costs for all involved.
Although sometimes scattered and in need of some form to bring it all together, it's still an honest biographical account of what happens along the border, from a variety of perspectives. Anyone looking for political fuel will find something for whatever view they support, but I'd still rate it as an essential pick-up for those who want a clear view of what happens along the southern border. It's not easy on anyone involved, and not easy to read either.
Writing a little fragmented. Good book, but thought it would be more impactful, more informative when talking about border control.
The Line Becomes A River is a biography about a young man's experience as a Border Patrol agent after he studied immigration and the border in college. It's an informative mix of first hand experience and academic/historical material and is informative & eye-opening (as well as with mildly depressing).
His mother was right. Working as a Border Patrol Agent, albeit with humanity and compassion, changed the author. It marked him in ways he cannot number. The book recounts some of his experiences. Read it.
Francisco Cantu’s debut non-fiction book / biography is split into three distinct section. We first see him as bright-eyed student eager to learn more about immigration policy and reform through hands-on experience. We then follow his career as border agent (La Migra) as he stops drug dealers, attempts to track immigrants, shows compassion, and recovers dead bodies. His third act lets him see the border from the side of the immigrants when a close friend goes back to help his mother and isn’t allowed back into the country despite having lived in the USA for over 30 years.
Cantu’s experienced and atmospheric storytelling bring the struggle on our southern border into sharp relief and you can feel his empathy for everyone involved. Still, his time with La Migra leave Cantu with the deep psychological scars. Can you fight in a war against masses of humanity and retain your own humanity? Cantu’s often leaves details to the imagination and sometimes has sections that I didn’t understand the purpose of but taken as a whole the book provided me with important information and knowledge of the day-to-day reality of the border.
**The Line Becomes a River is a 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence Shortlist Winner
"The border's in our blood. . ."
It's hard to right about border security and immigration with impartiality. If you're on one side, the border patrol (and ICE) are trigger happy good old boys living out wild west fantasies. If you're on the other, they are the last line of defense between wholesome Americans and the blood thirsty, drug-pushing criminals that are making their way to our border. It's become one of the most contentious political issues of our time. Francisco Cantu brings a unique perspective, as grew up in the Southwest, is Mexican-American, and was border patrol agent. The book, unfortunately, is a little uncertain about what it wants to be. It's a memoir in some ways, but also it's a little bit history, a little bit social commentary, and a little bit discourse on the very complex issues. I liked it and think it's a subject more than worthy of a literary approach, but I wanted something more, something deeper from it, which maybe was an unfair expectation.
Beautiful depth and description in the story. I like the blending of Cantu's personal life and work life--creating a balance is such a rocky road, but he blends describing them (at least) beautifully. Thankful for this story!
Cantu' writes from first person perspective in this captivating story of his experience as a Border Patrol Agent. It's not about US politics but rather the "commodity" of the alien. In the author's sweeping description of the border landscape he also intimately and graphically describes the landscape of one's soul - in Mann's view, me vs."the other". He examines his experience, "I had little inkling of what happened to those I arrested after I turned over ther paperwork and went home from my shift." His friendly relationship with Jose' and his arrest brought him face to face with the depersonalized system and the steadfast attempts with which many try to re-enter US for a better life.
To be a border agent is to deal with people caught up in crime and those trying to have a better life for their families- and both ending up dying in the desert. I think the history of the border that he lays out for us is valuable for showing us that we need to have a policy that is knowable, enforceable and humane. This book makes me feel once again the overwhelming gratitude that I was born in the USA and how much I take it for granted.
It is no wonder that border patrol agents get PTSD with the carnage, inhumane treatment, and tragedy that they see every day. I feel for everyone involved.
I recommend this book to everyone, unless you are there on the border and seeing all sides you cannot possibly be informed.