The Devil’s Highway

The Devil’s Highway is a 2004 book by Luis Alberto Urrea, who teaches creative writing at the University of Illinois/Chicago.

It focuses on the May 2001 tragedy where fourteen undocumented workers–the Yuma 14–died in the Arizona desert as they were walking in 110 degree heat seeking to get to jobs in the U.S.

But Urrea–who writes beautifully like the published poet that he is–puts this particular story in context. It is Operation Gatekeeper, Bill Clinton’s $3 billion militarization of the California border, that has forced immigrants to walk in the desert. On average, at least one immigrant dies each day in the Arizona desert. The smuggling of immigrants has become a big business, entangled with the narcotics cartels which are allied with both the Mexican and U.S. governments. Many of the immigrants in the desert are not Latino–they are often Chinese or Eastern European.

The stereotype of a border crossing is that it is just some minor unpleasantness–an afternoon in the trunk of a car or a midnight swim across a river. Urrea brings us face to face with the unbelievable horror that even successful entry into the U.S. has become. And he describes the conditions in Mexico that drive people to attempt it.

In Los Angeles, everyone knows many immigrants. Friends, co-workers, people you run into on the street. After reading this book, you wonder if they too had to travel the Devil’s Highway to get here.

Urrea also describes how, even in the reactionary cauldron of Arizona politics, most people know the treatment and conditions of immigrants is wrong. He describes how the train crews who cross Arizona have established policies to carry plenty of bottled water so they can throw it to anyone they see in the desert. A large group of Border patrolmen have, with their own money and despite intense political opposition, put up a network of large water tanks in the worst part of the desert.

Urrea’s book challenges us all to find ways to coalesce the huge pro-immigrant sentiment in the United States into a movement that is powerful enough and visionary enough to end the human traffic jam on the devil’s highway.

LEE BALLINGER is coeditor of one of CounterPunch’s favorite newsletters, Rock and Rap Confidential, where this article originally appeared. He can be reached at: Rockrap@aol.com

For a free copy of the latest RRC issue, email your postal address to: RRC, Box 341305, LA CA 90034 or send an email to: Rockrap@aol.com



More articles by:

Lee Ballinger, CounterPunch’s music columnist, is co-editor of Rock and Rap Confidential author of the forthcoming book Love and War: My First Thirty Years of Writing, interviewed Honkala for CounterPunch. RRRC is now available for free by emailing Ballinger at: rockrap@aol.com.

March 22, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Italy, Germany and the EU’s Future
David Rosen
The Further Adventures of the President and the Porn Star
Gary Leupp
Trump, the Crown Prince and the Whole Ugly Big Picture
The Hudson Report
Modern-Day Debtors’ Prisons and Debt in Antiquity
Steve Martinot
The Properties of Property
Binoy Kampmark
Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and Surveillance Capitalism
Jeff Berg
Russian to Judgment
Gregory Barrett
POSSESSED! Europe’s American Demon Must Be Exorcised
Robby Sherwin
What Do We Do About Facebook?
Sam Husseini
Trump Spokesperson Commemorates Invading Iraq by Claiming U.S. Doesn’t Dictate to Other Countries; State Dept. Defends Invasion
Rob Okun
Students: Time is Ripe to Add Gender to Gun Debate
Michael Barker
Tory Profiteering in Russia and Putin’s Debt of Gratitude
March 21, 2018
Paul Street
Time is Running Out: Who Will Protect Our Wrecked Democracy from the American Oligarchy?
Mel Goodman
The Great Myth of the So-Called “Adults in the Room”
Chris Floyd
Stumbling Blocks: Tim Kaine and the Bipartisan Abettors of Atrocity
Eric Draitser
The Political Repression of the Radical Left in Crimea
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan Threatens Wider War Against the Kurds
John Steppling
It is Us
Thomas Knapp
Death Penalty for Drug Dealers? Be Careful What You Wish for, President Trump
Manuel García, Jr.
Why I Am a Leftist (Vietnam War)
Isaac Christiansen
A Left Critique of Russiagate
Howard Gregory
The Unemployment Rate is an Inadequate Reporter of U.S. Economic Health
Ramzy Baroud
Who Wants to Kill Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah?
Roy Morrison
Trouble Ahead: The Trump Administration at Home and Abroad
Roger Hayden
Too Many Dead Grizzlies
George Wuerthner
The Lessons of the Battle to Save the Ancient Forests of French Pete
Binoy Kampmark
Fictional Free Trade and Permanent Protectionism: Donald Trump’s Economic Orthodoxy
Rivera Sun
Think Outside the Protest Box
March 20, 2018
Jonathan Cook
US Smooths Israel’s Path to Annexing West Bank
Jeffrey St. Clair
How They Sold the Iraq War
Chris Busby
Cancer, George Monbiot and Nuclear Weapons Test Fallout
Nick Alexandrov
Washington’s Invasion of Iraq at Fifteen
David Mattson
Wyoming Plans to Slaughter Grizzly Bears
Paul Edwards
My Lai and the Bad Apples Scam
Julian Vigo
The Privatization of Water and the Impoverishment of the Global South
Mir Alikhan
Trump and Pompeo on Three Issues: Paris, Iran and North Korea
Seiji Yamada
Preparing For Nuclear War is Useless
Gary Leupp
Brennan, Venality and Turpitude
Martha Rosenberg
Why There’s a Boycott of Ben & Jerry’s on World Water Day, March 22
John Pilger
Skripal Case: a Carefully-Constructed Drama?
March 19, 2018
Henry Heller
The Moment of Trump
John Davis
Pristine Buildings, Tarnished Architect
Uri Avnery
The Fake Enemy
Patrick Cockburn
The Fall of Afrin and the Next Phase of the Syrian War
Nick Pemberton
The Democrats Can’t Save Us