11/25/2015 The New Yorker
This is the third in a three-part series, “Faces from the Border,” about Mexican-American agents on the border between the United States and Mexico. The series was produced, with funding from the Ford Foundation, as part of a research project on migrants and migration policy by the Division of International Studies and the Journalism on Public Policy Program at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CIDE), in Mexico City.
Today, about half of the guardians of the border—U.S. Border Patrol agents—are Hispanic, and many have roots in both countries. Consider agent Yesenia León, aged thirty-three. She was born in a small town in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua and came across the border legally when she was four thanks to her father, a U.S. citizen. León, the youngest of six children, was raised in El Paso.
She graduated from Bowie High School, which back then, she says, was known as “La Bowie” because the south-central school had a reputation for its cholos, or gang members. It was also known as the place that had, through a 1992 federal lawsuit, changed the way the agents operated in border cities. The Border Patrol agency routinely stopped and questioned Hispanics near the high school, located just a few feet from the border. The lawsuit brought by Bowie students and staff successfully made a case against racial profiling that has had a major impact on Border Patrol procedures throughout the Southwest.