Francisco Cantú served as an agent for the Border Patrol from 2008-2012, working in the deserts of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. His newly-published biography, "The Line Becomes a River," describes his experiences and leads to some thoughts about the proposed border wall.
For Francisco Cantú, the border is in his blood: his mother, a park ranger and the daughter of a Mexican immigrant, raised him in the scrublands of the Southwest. Haunted by the landscape of his youth, Cantú joins the Border Patrol. He and his partners are posted to remote regions crisscrossed by drug routes and smuggling corridors, where they learn to track other humans under blistering sun and through frigid nights. They haul in the dead and deliver to detention those they find alive.
Plagued by nightmares, he abandons the Border Patrol for civilian life. But when an immigrant friend travels to Mexico to visit his dying mother and does not return, Cantu discovers that the border has migrated with him, and now he must know the whole story. Searing and unforgettable, The Line Becomes a River makes urgent and personal the violence our border wreaks on both sides of the line. A former Fulbright fellow, he is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and a 2017 Whiting Award. His writing and translations have been featured in The Best American Essays, Harper’s, n+1, Orion and Guernica, as well as on This American Life. He lives in Tucson.