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Francisco Cantú

Author of the bestselling memoir The Line Becomes a River and former US Border Patrol Agent

Francisco Cantú on the US/Mexico border and THE LINE BECOMES A RIVER
  • About Francisco Cantú

    Raised in the Southwest, and a student of US/Mexico relations, Francisco Cantú wanted to see the realities of the border up-close. He enlisted as a US border patrol agent in 2008 and spent the next four years working in the deserts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. During blistering days and frigid nights, he and his partners apprehended migrants who were risking their lives to cross to a new country.

    Haunted by his interactions with border-crossers and rattled by an inescapable proximity to violence, Cantú decided to return to civilian life, only to discover that the border had followed him home. When an immigrant friend traveled back to Mexico to visit his dying mother and didn’t return, Cantú was moved to uncover the entire story. His searing memoir, The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border, depicts the cruelties the border creates, for Americans and Mexicans on both sides of the line. An instant New York Times bestseller, Esquire called The Line Becomes a River  “a must-read for anyone who thinks ‘build a wall’ is the answer to anything.”

    Cantú speaks frankly, compassionately, and knowledgeably about the terror and tragedy of the migrants who risk and lose their lives attempting to cross the border. A master story-teller, he gives human faces to the nameless multitudes, and refutes the incendiary policy and rhetoric aimed at them.

    Cantú is a former Fulbright fellow and recipient of a Pushcart Prize and 2017 Whiting Award. His writing and translations have appeared in Best American Essays, Harpers, n+1, Orion, and Guernica. His work has also been featured on This American Life. He currently lives in Tucson, Arizona.

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    Francisco Cantu

  • Speaking Topics

    The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the US-Mexico Border

    As a US border patrol agent, Francisco Cantú gained an intimate perspective on the everyday violence that permeates the lives of migrants and the dehumanizing policies that have shaped America’s border enforcement system. A third-generation Mexican-American raised in the Southwest, his timely lectures on the human realities of the border and the consequences of increased militarization and immigrant incarceration exposes the nuanced complexity that exists behind sensational headlines, offering a personal glimpse into the ongoing conflict surrounding our nation’s boundaries.

  • Video

  • Praise for Francisco Cantú


    Francisco was great. Working with you all was fantastic. Francisco was open to prep calls and came prepared, he was also so easy to work with in person at the event.


    Community members were looking forward to [Francisco Cantú’s] visit all month. Everyone who attended the event was very pleased and really enjoyed the event. The author was amazing and a pleasure to work with.

    Carlsbad City Library

    Praise for The Line Becomes a River

    When the political rhetoric around the complex, ruggedly beautiful and scarred U.S.-Mexico borderlands is reduced to talk of a 30-foot concrete wall, it’s time to take a more nuanced look at our southern border…The Line Becomes a River veers away from propaganda and stereotypes and into the wild deserts and mountains, and, especially, the hearts and minds of the people who traverse the increasingly militarized borderlands.

    The Wall Street Journal

    [Cantú] proves to be an astounding writer with this memoir for the moment.

    Entertainment Weekly

    A beautiful, fiercely honest, and nevertheless deeply empathetic look at those who police the border and the migrants who risk – and lose – their lives crossing it. In a time of often ill-informed or downright deceitful political rhetoric, this book is an invaluable corrective.

    Phil Klay, U.S. Marine Corps veteran and author of Redeployment

    This book tells the hard poetry of the desert heart. If you think you know about immigration and the border, you will see there is much to learn. And you will be moved by its unexpected music.

    Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Devil’s Highway
  • Books by Francisco Cantú

  • Media About Francisco Cantú

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and Availability

  • 212 572-2013
  • Francisco Cantú travels from Tucson, Arizona

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