Climbing the shallow gray stone steps leading to the borderlands of justice in Las Cruces, New Mexico, you see something in the arid morning sun gleaming between the glass. It looks like a miniature Washington Monument on the first landing of the 10th district federal courthouse. Closer inspection reveals it represents a border crossing marker, half white Italian marble and half Mexican honey onyx, the union of two places where cultures flow as one not far from the Rio Grande.
Up above on the fourth floor in the Guadalupe courtroom the cultures are torn asunder along with consciences as all rise at 9am sharp on Tuesday for US district court judge Robert Brack entering through a back door to his bench.
Facing him below along the benchrail are 13 unlucky men, ages 20 to 30, in shackles and chains and wearing jail suits of different colors from the counties that rent space to the federal marshal. They wear ear buds for the translation. They are looking down, expressionless.