How do we balance border security and America’s need for a vital workforce while continuing to provide access to the American dream? Since the attacks of 9/11, the United States has steadily ramped up security along the U.S.-Mexico border, transforming America’s legendary Southwest into a frontier of fear. Veteran journalist Peter Eichstaedt roams this fabled region from Tucson, Arizona, to El Paso, Texas, meeting with migrants, border security advocates, and communities ravaged by cross-border crime. He rides with the border patrol and reveals the tragic situation that has evolved along the border. Eichstaedt finds that despite tens of thousands of border agents and the expenditure of billions of dollars, an estimated one million Mexicans and Central Americans continue to cross the border each year. These migrants fill jobs that have become the underpinnings of the U.S. economy. Rather than building more and better barricades, Eichstaedt argues that the United States must reform its immigration and drug laws and acknowledge that costly, counterproductive, and antiquated policies have created deadly circumstances on both sides of the border. Recognizing the truth of America’s long and tortured relations with Mexico must be followed by legitimizing the contributions made by migrants to the American way of life.
Journalist Eichstaedt (Above the Din of War) heads to the southern borderlands to explore the ties binding Mexico and the United States and the barriers keeping them apart. By talking with ranchers, immigrants, border agents, and others on both sides of the line, he delves into the complicated issues of immigration and enforcement, made more volatile by the maelstrom of drug violence engulfing much of northern Mexico. He finds "a deplorable lack of interaction, unfortunately fueled by fear and ignorance." This distrust came to a head in the fight over Arizona's SB 1070, which dramatically expanded local police forces' mandate to detain undocumented individuals. Eichstaedt reports coming across a young man near death in the Arizona desert, giving him food and water, and driving him to the highway to be picked up by the border patrol actions now illegal in the state. The author's vignettes of his interactions with a diverse cast of characters are insightful and engrossing, yet despite his fieldwork on the border and over 20 years living in New Mexico, he seems to have never mastered Spanish, and the frequent misuse and misspelling of Spanish words, phrases, and names distracts from an otherwise powerful book. 40 color photos.