Happy Book Birthday (Feb 6th) to The Line Becomes a River!
Francisco Cantu, a grandson of Mexican immigrants himself (who does not feel this gives him any kind of experience of immigration or Border Patrol), decides after graduating with an International Relations degree, that he wanted to become a Border Patrol agent to begin to understand how the Border works, gain some experience for his resume, and (in his words) try to be a supportive person for people who have to be taken in for crossing the Border.
Cantu seems to be quite honest and earnest here, giving at times very graphic stories of his experiences, and often sharing experiences that show the Border Patrol in a bad light. I’ve heard that people’s biggest complaint is that this is “Border Patrol Propaganda”, and maybe it is, but it definitely didn’t make me feel more inclined to support Border Patrol. Rather, I found myself intrigued by the stories he had to share, as I don’t often actually hear from many people who have worked as Border Patrol agents. He seemed to be honest about the political views of his coworkers as well, definitely not leaving out times when they dehumanized others in order to continue their jobs. Cantu explicitly talks about the process of dehumanization, and how intrinsic that is to the Border Patrol in order for them to do the job that is asked of them.
The Line Becomes a River is not entirely memoir, instead it floats the line between biographical and even historical/political at times. Cantu shares many details about the history of the Border’s creation and politics. I did not find that information at all dry, instead I was fascinated by the history. Cantu kept historical details short and sweet.
Cantu also shares a story about a friend of his who has been deported, in an attempt to get even more personal. Although the story is not his, I am so glad he is taking the time to share it. Another big complaint I’ve heard is that Francisco Cantu uses other’s stories to profit from with this book, but let’s remember that getting your book published often does not result in making you rich, particularly in the non-fiction realm. On top of that, I’m so glad some of these stories are being shared, even if they are skewed from one person’s perspective, as many of these stories will never have voices of their own. Many people do not write about their own experiences with the Border Patrol. Next we need more stories from those who have attempted or succeeded in crossing the Border, and their experiences with Border Patrol.
I felt this was an important read, and just as unclear throughout the book as one might expect or hope for. The Border Patrol is for sure a flawed system as it exists now, and we should not dehumanize the people on either side of the system. I’m glad Cantu spends time with this book humanizing the people in it on both sides, and I’m glad he spends time talking about dehumanization. Definitely would recommend this book.
I received a copy of this book via Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review.