Community reading program
Illegal immigration and border patrol have never been more divisive issues than they are now. But back before the showboating and grandstanding about wall building, Luis Albert Urrea told the story of 26 Mexican men who paid to be smuggled into the country through the most dangerous part of the border, the part of Southern Arizona known as "The Devil's Highway."
Unaware before embarking on their trip that they would have to traverse fifty miles of desert in the brutal 115-degree heat, only 12 of the men were found alive five days later.
Urrea approaches the event from several sides. He examines the lives of the men hoping to cross into the United States, explains why they would attempt such a dangerous journey, and notes how, from the very start, the men were misinformed and ill-equipped to face the desert. He discusses the Border Patrol agents, who are themselves hesitant about traversing the Devil's Highway because of its dangerous and unforgiving terrain. And he even takes readers into the heads of the "coyotes" or smugglers, to help us understand why one might accept money to perform an illegal trip.
"The Devil's Highway" is a devastating story, but Urrea also makes it a humane one, a short book about hope and death, which presents an enduring argument for the need for U.S. border policy change. He examines the complexities of illegal border crossing, admits to an initial bias against border patrol agents, and confronts the effects of extreme temperatures and dehydration on the human body.