Former US Border Patrol Agent and author of The Line Becomes a River
Photo Credit: Beowulf Sheehan
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 found himself moved to uncover the entire story. His searing memoir, The Line Becomes a River depicts the cruelties the border creates, for Americans and Mexicans on both sides of the line.
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.Francisco Cantu
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 both migrants and the people working to stop them. A third-generation Mexican-American raised in the Southwest, he was able to connect with those trying to cross into America, even as he detained them. His timely lectures on the human realities of the border and the migrant experience exposes the nuanced complexity that exists behind sensational headlines, offering a personal glimpse into the ongoing conflict surrounding our nation’s boundaries.
Praise for Francisco Cantú
Praise for The Line Becomes a River
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
Cantú’s story, and intelligent and humane perspective, should mortify anyone who ever thought building a wall might improve our lot. He advocates for clarity and compassion in place of xenophobia and uninformed rhetoric. His words are emotionally true and his literary sensibility uplifting.— Barry Lopez, author of Arctic Dreams and Of Wolves and Men
Books by Francisco Cantú
Media About Francisco Cantú
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- Francisco Cantú travels from Tucson, Arizona
The Line Becomes a River
“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