Mason Takes on Immigration Issues with Text and Community Choice

Posted: December 5, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Luis Alberto Urrea’s “The Devil’s Highway: A True Story” is this year’s selection for Mason’s Text and Community Program, which encourages professors, students, alumni and the wider community to approach books from multiple perspectives.

Luis Alberto Urrea
Luis Alberto Urrea

“The Devil’s Highway” offers readers an opportunity to enter a world that few have experienced and even fewer have survived.

In 2001, 26 Mexican men began to cross from Mexico into Arizona and through the Devil’s Highway, described on the book jacket as “a desert so harsh and desolate that even the Border Patrol is afraid to travel through it, a place that for hundreds of years has stolen men’s souls and swallowed their blood.” That description isn’t hype: Only 12 of the 26 made it out alive.

While English courses will examine “The Devil’s Highway” as an exemplary work of nonfiction, the book not only recounts this nightmare journey with all the power of a great novel but also offers a powerful examination of U.S. and Mexican border activities and immigration policies.

To this end, the book’s selection for this year’s Text and Community allows students across many disciplines to discuss an issue of resounding importance to contemporary society – nationally, regionally and even locally.

“The study of immigration is often viewed as the domain of the social sciences,” says Associate Professor Debra Lattanzi Shutika, one of the program’s organizers. “But the English Department and its cosponsor, the Mason Project on Immigration, will collaborate to host a number of engaging forums and discussions that demonstrate the relevance of the humanities to the study of immigration.”

Devil's Highway book cover

Numerous events are planned throughout the spring semester, including several discussion forums sponsored by the Democracy Project; a brown-bag lunch series focusing on immigration research by Mason faculty; and a student essay contest hosted by the English Department.

A film festival sponsored by the Mason Project on Immigration will welcome independent filmmakers Eric Byler, Annabel Park and Jeff Man of “9500 Liberty,” an “interactive documentary” on the politicization of the immigration controversy currently being filmed in Northern Virginia.

As a capstone to the program, Urrea himself will visit Mason on Wednesday, April 9, to speak about his experiences writing the book.

For more information, contact Shutika at

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