Dreams, divisions, and death: author Francisco Cantú shares what he saw at the Mexican border

The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border, the extraordinary new book by young author Francisco Cantú, is peppered with tales of people making poor decisions.Some of his fellow US Border Patrol agents are cruel, just like the “coyotes” who abandon the migrants they promise to shepherd into the US from Mexico. Many of the illegal crossers heedlessly gamble with their lives and those of their loved ones. The US government doesn’t seem to flinch in the face of thousands of deaths in the Southwestern desert.

But Cantú, who joined the Border Patrol after college to better understand the border, isn’t here to judge individuals. Instead, he watches, reports, and agonizes. The result is an intense and captivating memoir of dreams, divisions, and death at the border.In an interview, Cantú talks about empathy for a would-be drug dealer, the horrific price of current border policies, and his hope for the future.”There’s a way of having these conversations about the border that rejects the simplified rhetoric we’re being fed,” he says, “a way that acknowledges it as hugely complex, as nuanced.”

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