Border Hacker: A Tale of Treachery, Trafficking, and Two Friends on the Run

Border Hacker: A Tale of Treachery, Trafficking, and Two Friends on the Run

by Levi Vonk
Border Hacker: A Tale of Treachery, Trafficking, and Two Friends on the Run

Border Hacker: A Tale of Treachery, Trafficking, and Two Friends on the Run

by Levi Vonk


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An unlikely friendship, a four-thousand-mile voyage, and an impenetrable frontier—this dramatic odyssey reveals the chaos and cruelty US immigration policies have unleashed beyond our borders.

Axel Kirschner was a lifelong New Yorker, all Queens hustle and bravado. But he was also undocumented. After a minor traffic violation while driving his son to kindergarten, Axel was deported to Guatemala, a country he swore he had not lived in since he was a baby. While fighting his way back through Mexico on a migrant caravan, Axel met Levi Vonk, a young anthropologist and journalist from the US. That chance encounter would change both of their lives forever.

Levi soon discovered that Axel was no ordinary migrant. He was harboring a secret: Axel was a hacker. This secret would launch the two friends on a dangerous adventure far beyond what either of them could have imagined. While Axel’s abilities gave him an edge in a system that denied his existence, they would also ensnare him in a tangled underground network of human traffickers, corrupt priests, and anti-government guerillas eager to exploit his talents for their own ends. And along the way, Axel’s secret only raised more questions for Levi about his past. How had Axel learned to hack? What did he want? And was Axel really who he said he was?

Border Hacker is at once an adventure saga—the story of a man who would do anything to return to his family, and the friend who would do anything to help him—and a profound parable about the violence of American immigration policy told through a single, extraordinary life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781645037064
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Publication date: 10/03/2023
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 342,035
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Levi Vonk is a writer, anthropologist, and professor at the University of Virginia. He is usually somewhere between the US South and Mexico.
Axel Kirschner is a hacker and stateless migrant. He grew up in New York but is now in hiding. Axel Kirschner is not his real name. 

Table of Contents

Author's Note xi

Maps xvi

Part I The Priest

1 The Viacrucis Migrante 3

2 Wake Up, White Boy 18

3 The Middle of the Nowhere 36

4 Only Desperate People 53

5 The Kidnapper 62

6 Brown Recluse 78

7 The Battle of Ixtepec 94

8 Ruffrider Quest 98

9 The Fight of the Century 107

Part II The Mechanic

10 Too Much Blood 123

11 Godforsaken Chahuites 131

12 The Power of Technology 144

13 Hot Spots 152

14 Dogs and Wolves 161

15 The American Axel 169

16 The Auto Shop 174

17 The Breakout 190

18 Freer in Mexico 197

Part III The Attorney

19 The Martian 211

20 A Phone for Nestora Salgado 214

21 The Right Kind of Traumatized 222

22 Salmon and Asparagus and Brie 229

23 Mind Body Problems 238

24 MAGA 248

25 Isabeia 260

Part IV The Anthropologist

26 Tocayos 271

27 Lopez Obrador 285

28 Across 307

Acknowledgments 317

Notes 319

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