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Last Updated on August 15, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 269

Our Distance from the Violence of the Border Crisis

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Cantú writes about the many metaphors that are used in the United States and Mexico to describe illegal immigrants, coyotes (the Mexican drug smugglers and human traffickers that exploit them), and the Border Patrol agents that both hunt them down and help them. He scrutinizes the cartel violence on both sides of the border. Cantú also looks into the deportation-industrial complex in which arrested people find themselves and how difficult it can be for family members to find them. Throughout, Cantú examines the ways that we as a society numb ourselves to ongoing dehumanizing violence by turning people into numbers, statistics, or metaphors, as if to keep ourselves safe from full knowledge of the crisis at the US–Mexico border.

Morality and What Is Right

Cantú's book explores how Border Patrol agents' drug busts and arrests of immigrants with criminal histories help them justify their role to themselves as the "good guys," but that other human encounters—in which Border Patrol sends desperate people back to the violence of their homelands—cause feelings of moral ambiguity.

The Humanity of Migrants

Cantú asks how the humanity of migrants is lost in the process of border crossing, detainment, and deportation. He suggests migrants are first commodified by Mexican drug smugglers and coyotes, only to become prey once again at the hands of the US Border Patrol and deportation-industrial complex. Rather than offer easy answers to the crisis in the desert, Cantú shows that the problem is longstanding, massive, and complex, and he implores us as readers to avoid being placated by overly simplistic answers.