The Devils' Highway evokes many conflicting theories and emotions because it is based on the true story of Mexican migration to the US and one particular, life-changing event from 2001, named "Yuma 14" after the 14 out of 26 immigrants that died during the ill-fated attempt to cross the border to a better life. The heat for which the area is well-known
conjures a hallucinatory effect. Urrea describes the walkers’ uncertain eyesight, sights of God or the devil, poisonous systems from ingesting their own urine, and utter madness.
As with anything involving human life, emotions ran high in this case. The Border Patrol, amongst other factors (the guides and the terrain, for example), was blamed for the tragedy because, no matter how remote the potential crossing zone, they must have known that people desperate to escape poverty may attempt the unconscionable. The Church was amongst their biggest critics.
Mexican and U.S. border policy is backward, ...and it does little to stem the flow of immigrants.
Fortunately, though, the author, himself a Mexican, believing what he had heard, realised that his research would not be complete without actually spending some time with the much-maligned Border Patrol so that he could prove his theory and what he had heard. He was not expecting to find any dedicated, 'decent' human beings!
What he found were ordinary men, trying to do their job in the most difficult and emotive set of circumstances. Urrea realised that, no matter what the Border Patrol did, they would be criticized. He realised that they did put their own lives at risk when immigrants and sometimes guides (who were often criminal) found themselves in trouble and in need of assistance. He was humbled and his opinion of the Border Patrol altered.