As other educators have already pointed out, in The Devil’s Highway, Urrea aims to humanize the immigrants who cross the border on foot illegally, to engender sympathy for their plight, and to raise awareness of its core cause: social and economic inequity.
Adding to that, from my perspective, Urrea’s main message and main argument is this:
Although it’s impossible to point the finger at any single villain or politician or corporation, saying “You’re at fault for this suffering,” and although it’s impossible to identify a single, clear-cut way to solve the rampant inequity that causes border crossings (and all its inherent suffering and loss of life), we all share responsibility for working to ease, and ultimately to resolve, this humanitarian crisis.
At the end of the text, in the “Reading Group Guide,” Urrea reminds us that many groups and regulations are at fault (such as “corporate bosses,” the “border enforcement policy” in the United States, and the Mexican government), and that there are, in fact, “any number of solutions” to the tragedies that occur along the border, the implication being that we cannot throw up our hands in despair and claim that the problem is unsolvable, as thousands of people are already doing good work to chip away at the problem:
We must look at the thousands of visionary localized efforts on both sides of the border to change the paradigm.
What can we do?
Urrea suggests that we keep ourselves informed of “the United States’ semi-secret welcoming of undocumented workers,” for one thing.
The articles linked below lay out updated information about the state of these workers, as well as concrete actions we can take to help them.