An indictment of U.S. immigration policy via harrowing stories of immigrants trying to cross from Mexico into Arizona, the Border Patrol agents whose job it is to stop them and the volunteers dedicated to saving their lives.
Tucson Weekly columnist Regan expands on her newspaper coverage in this close-up look at what is happening on the border. Increasing militarization, with ramped-up patrols and surveillance of older, well-traveled routes, has altered immigration patterns. More immigrants are dying of exposure and dehydration as they attempt to walk across dangerous desert country. Accurate statistics are impossible, because not all bodies are found, but from October 2001 to April 2009, 1,588 migrant bodies have been found in the desert of southern Arizona. Regan accompanied Border Patrol agents on their rounds, interviewing them and the migrants they picked up, detained and returned home. She talked to homeowners angry about the trespass of migrants and federal agents on their property, as well as environmentalists, archeologists and biologists distressed over the damage to the environment caused by the new wall along the border. She also communicated with tribal members of the Tohono O’odham Nation, whose land is cut in half by the border. Regan is most sympathetic to the volunteers, including No More Deaths and other humanitarian groups, working to save the lives of migrants by monitoring their routes and providing water at stations along the way. Human suffering, greed, indifference and kindness are present in story after story. The brightest economic note in the author’s account of a small Mexican-owned coffee co-op that is helping Mexican farmers earn a living wage in their own country and providing a model that can be duplicated and expanded.
Regan puts a human face on the multiple problems created by desperate, poverty-stricken people entering the United States illegally to look for work, and the costly measures taken by the American government to secure its borders.