The protagonist, Vicente Ortiz, enters the United States illegally from Mexico. Like many of his compatriots, his goal is to better his economic situation. Barely surviving the harshness of the New Mexico desert, he is fortunate to be rescued by a catholic priest. With the help of Father Felix and his connections, Vicente finds employment as a gardener with an upper-middle class family in the suburbs of Phoenix. After a drunken brawl involving one of the teenage daughters of the family, Vicente finds himself in the Maricopa jail for an assault which he did not commit. Race has everything to do with his wrongful detention. Due to his illegal status, he realizes, like many of his fellow countrymen in Tent City, that his stay is indefinite. Vicente’s experiences inside the prison give the reader a taste of the regime of America’s Toughest Sheriff. Back in Mexico, Vicente’s fiancée, Rosa María, knowing he in incapable of such a crime, decides that she too will make the journey north to find him. In the hands of a pollero, she is raped and left for dead in the New Mexico desert. The humiliation of a beating by prison guards, coupled with one of the infamous marches around the exterior of jail in chains, wearing only pink underwear, pushes Vicente and his fellow inmates to the depths of despair. This novel touches on many topical issues in the United States: immigration, racial prejudice, and abuse of federal funds. These subjects are intertwined in a tale of love and perseverance.