U.S. Border Patrol agent Ramiro Cordero has spent nearly two decades working on the border in Texas, part of the El Paso sector team responsible for intercepting migrants and drug smugglers flowing in from Mexico.
On most Fridays, Cordero sheds his green uniform and gun belt, packs the bed of his tan F-150 pickup truck and sets off with his wife across the international bridge.
Weekends find him on his ranch in Moctezuma, deep in the state of Chihuahua, tending the pecan orchard, wrestling calves for branding or building a pit fire for freshly butchered pork barbacoa.
Cordero, 46, grew up in Mexico and hopes to retire there soon. He is one of a substantial group of border agents — more than half of whom are Latino — whose family connections are in Mexico, whose professional loyalty is to the United States, whose history straddles both sides of the border.
“It’s not unusual to see,” he says, naming at least four friends and family members from Ciudad Juarez, south of El Paso on the Mexican side of the border, who have joined U.S. federal law enforcement. “Border communities are very close. The ties are very, very close.”
America’s southwest border area has always been a land of its own, a place that is neither Mexican nor American, but a vibrant fusion of both.
But years of drug violence in northern Mexico and the political rift between the U.S. and Mexican governments…