By Steve Neavling
Oscar Hagelsieb has a unique perspective of life on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border.
A child of illegal immigrants, Hagelsieb became a Border Patrol official, a position that seemingly put him at odds with his father, who crossed the border several times.
Before taking the job, he talked to his father.
“My dad’s my biggest hero and I didn’t want to disappoint him or offend him. He had crossed illegally several times and I didn’t know what his opinion was of border control,” Hagelsieb tells Quartz. “My parents didn’t want better lives for themselves—for them it would have been more convenient for them to stay in Mexico with their home and family—but for their children, for us.”
To Hagelsieb’s surprise, his dad encouraged him to pursue his dreams of protecting the border.
“He said that the border patrol and federal law enforcement needed individuals like me to humanize the experience,” Hagelsieb said of his father.
Hagelsieb’s unlikely story is featured in a recently released documentary, “Kingdom of Shadows.”
Hagelsieb began working as a border patrol agent in Fabens, Texas in 2000, which meant he had to stop people like his parents, who eventually legalized their immigration status.
Hagelsieb shied away from the debate over U.S. immigration laws.
I have no opinion one way or the other,” he says. “As a federal agent, I uphold the laws that lawmakers pass.”