A recent case in Arizona highlights what the Los Angeles Times calls “an open secret” along the Mexican border: romance between illegal immigrants and those responsible for deporting them. Some locals say the clandestine romances make a mockery of efforts targeting illegal immigrants, such as laws being considered by Congress that would mandate fences along sections of the border and fine employers who hire illegal aliens.
But such lines between the legal and illegal can be hard to draw on the southwestern border. For generations, families have easily moved back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico. Border Patrol agents, often young, single and new to the area, can get caught between the clear dictates of U.S. immigration law and the ambiguities of the heart. “The absurdity of it gets played out in the day-to-day lives of Border Patrol agents,” said Jennifer Allen, director of the Border Action Network, an immigrant rights group based in Tucson. “Everybody knows somebody [in the U.S. illegally] who has some kind of relationship with a Border Patrol agent. Either someone in their family is married to one, or they’re sleeping with one. People’s lives are very complicated and intertwined and they’re not very clear-cut.”