In this web-exclusive video, author Luis Alberto Urrea recalls a conversation he had with a border patrol agent that marked a turning point in his perception of border agents that has stuck with him ever since.
Acclaimed writer Luis Alberto Urrea and retired border patrol agent Paul Wells joined us for a live chat on Tuesday, May 8. They talked about the dreams of immigrants, the troubling escalating vitriol in the immigration debate and their impressions of life on the border.
Urrea, a bestselling author of 14 books, was born in Tijuana to a Mexican father and Anglo mother. His work draws from his life experiences living and working on both sides of the border. Urrea’s nonfiction book The Devil’s Highway, published in 2004, is a powerful account of the “Yuma 14” — the 14 migrants who died in the Arizona desert while crossing the border in May of 2001. The book was praised for its thorough research and detail, and was a 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist.
Paul Wells retired in 2010 after 30 years as a U.S. Border Patrol Agent. Beginning in 1980, he served as a patrol agent for 15 years, and as a first and second line supervisor for the next 15. He witnessed an expansion of the Border Patrol from about 2,000 agents nationwide in 1980 to 20,000 in 2010 along with dramatic improvements in technology. Today, he lives in Las Cruces, New Mexico with his wife.
Luis Urrea first met Paul Wells while researching an article for Playboy magazine in 2009. They have been friends ever since, although — as Wells describes it — they “don’t always see eye to eye on immigration issues.”