In 2015, anthropologist and writer Levi Vonk found himself on a journey filled with twists, turns, and a chance meeting that would forever impact his life. With a desire to report on the dangerous realities faced by Guatemalans as they fled civil and economic instability in their home country, Vonk joined a migrant caravan making its way into Mexico. On the trip, he meets Axel Kirschner, a man who grew up in New York but was deported to Guatemala after being identified as undocumented during a minor traffic violation.
The two men become friends, but as they get to know each other, Kirschner’s tale grows stranger. He reveals that he is a computer hacker and claims he’s being exploited for his skills and prevented from returning home to his family. As the details grow more bizarre, Vonk begins to question: Is Kirschner telling the truth? Is he really who he claims to be? And what kind of dark network could he be involved in?
Interwoven with Vonk and Kirschner’s individual narratives, the new book Border Hacker: A Tale of Treachery, Trafficking, and Two Friends on the Run, elevates issues of immigration policy, international computer hacking, and institutional corruption. Vonk joins us to discuss the 4,000-mile journey, his unexpected friendship with Kirschner, and the realities faced by migrants seeking safety and asylum.
Levi Vonk is an anthropologist, writer, and doctoral candidate. He lives between the U.S. and Mexico.
Presented by Town Hall Seattle.