While President Trump tells a story of violence, drugs, and human trafficking at the U.S./Mexico border, those living at the border have a very different story to tell. This story is of a melting pot where cultures mix, languages co-exist, and people show compassion, no matter where they or their ancestors originated from. This story is the one that President Trump doesn’t want you to know about.
I’ve long believed that the main cause of racism, bigotry, and prejudice, is fear of the unknown. This explains why people living in large cities are more open to new cultures, foods, languages, and religions than those living in rural towns where monoculturalism oftentimes thrives. Could the same be true when it comes to immigrantophobia, or ‘fear of immigration?’
Hill Reporter reached out to multiple individuals living along the Southern U.S. border to find out if in fact Trump’s propaganda and rhetoric aimed at migrants is warranted. What we found is that the stories of immigration are mostly not the scary tales told by Donald Trump, but are rather stunning, inspirational, heartfelt stories of coexistence, in every sense of the word. And one theme pervades: “A wall is not the answer.”
Life in Along the Border in San Diego, California
Melissa Shaw lives in San Diego near the San Ysidro port of entry, which is one of the busiest land border crossings in the world. Originally moving to the area from the East Coast, Shaw admits that “living near the Mexican border is NOTHING like life back in Maryland.”
The Spanish and English languages exist side-by-side, whether it be on public signs, restaurant menus or even within the public schooling system. It’s not just the languages which coexist, but also the food, the music, and the overall culture blending together to become something entirely unique, and incredibly soothing to the soul.
“I love it,” Shaw tells Hill Reporter. “I feel so fortunate to have friends from the south although I only speak a tiny smattering of the language. We can find commonalities and good will without employing articulate verbal communication. Hearts speak to each other. The schools all employ bilingual teachers, and beautiful Mexican music can be heard in the streets on a weekend night. We have THE BEST taco trucks in America.”
The economy in San Diego County is a thriving one. When it comes to technology, there are few areas that can claim to have as much economic diversity or technological resources as San Diego.
Every community needs functioning economic parts to survive, and when it comes to where Shaw lives, the influx of Mexican and Central American immigrants, play a huge role.
“There is a robust Hispanic demographic in San Diego County who contribute to the economy,” Shaw explains. “My car mechanic, handyman, and hair dresser have all been from Mexico and central America. So too my veterinarian and a couple of my doctors. My family routinely employs Latino immigrants to help with house cleaning and landscaping.”
Shaw says that when her family can afford it, they tip these immigrant workers, and the sheer look of disbelief shows just how appreciative they are just to have the opportunity provided to them to earn a living.
“It’s our distinct pleasure to help them find a niche in our society,” explained Shaw. “We couldn’t care less whether our Hispanic friends, coworkers and employees are ‘legal’ citizens or not. They’re just citizens.”
When it comes to the issue of Trump’s wall or the way that Trump has treated those people who Shaw lives among, she conveys that his rhetoric makes her feel both shameful and embarrassed.
“The wall is an extremely disturbing issue for me. It isn’t wanted here in San Diego. We have more than adequate border security already, in my opinion. We have a massive, ugly, rusted iron fence that extends out into the ocean. It cannot be climbed or conquered by a person on foot. This presidential administration has caused untold tension and anxiety here in my border city. The professed need for a hateful wall to divide us from our brothers and sisters is a myth.”
Shaw tells us that she feels the Hispanic community living in San Diego is “far less likely” to commit crimes when compared to their Caucasian counterparts. She says it’s not the immigrant population that makes people feel unsafe in the region, but rather Trump’s hateful rhetoric and immigration policies.
“The immigrants I’ve known who have arrived here from south of the border are inclined to be circumspect in their words and deeds, not wishing to draw attention to themselves. In protection of their families, they try to stay invisible like a shadow at midnight on the new moon.”
You don’t have to take Shaw’s word for it though. There are many studies which have found that immigration does not lead to an increase in the crime rate. In fact, it could be quite the opposite. Shaw feels safe living among immigrants from Mexico and Central America and would have it no other way.
“If I could tell Trump one thing about immigration it would be this: My city is a far more enjoyable and interesting place to live because of its adjacency to the border, not in spite of it.”
Life Along the Border in Tijuana, Mexico as an American
The fact that many of these border towns have such a low crime rate doesn’t mean that crime at the southern border is completely nonexistent. With this said, however, crime in the way that Trump explains it is an extreme rarity.
Faby Alvarado was born in Tijuana, Mexico, just a hop, skip and jump from San Diego. She has lived, attended school, and worked between both cities for the past 41 years. Alvarado is a U.S. citizen who currently is living in Tijuana, and like Shaw, she speaks of a remarkable culture of love and acceptance within the region, and emphasizes a “very interesting dynamic between border cities.”
While like in any other city in America or Mexico, drugs do exist, Alvarado emphasized that they usually don’t get into America via the pockets of illegal or undocumented border jumpers who walk across the border unscathed, but rather through other less risky means, relying on American citizens, teenagers and even border guards to help them gain entrance into the country.
“Drugs and people are mainly smuggled through the actual ports of entries and or sea; a physical wall will be useless,” Alvarado emphasized. “What the news fails to mention is the number of immigrants that want to cross to the USA actually pay US border officials at the San Ysidro border port of entry to turn the other way, and they cross the border in a regular van or SUV. They also fail to mention the number of human mules including young US citizen teenagers smuggling drugs by taping them to their body and crossing the drugs, walking or hidden in their car through the San Ysidro or Otay ports of entry… NOT through the hills or mountains.”
This does not mean that there aren’t attempts by certain Mexicans or Central Americans to try and hike over the border on foot, carrying illegal drugs, but Alvarado tells us that attempts to do so are not very successful. She explains that other people try to use drones to transfer drugs across the border, but this too has been mostly unsuccessful.
“The wall will be useless because where there’s a will, there’s a way!” Alvarado explained.
Alvarado knows what she is speaking about because she has seen friends, and close family members who are U.S. citizens, sent to prison for moving drugs across the border. She also tells us that the dealers oftentimes target American teenagers to do their dirty work for them.
There are thousands of U.S. citizens and permanent residents crossing the border in between San Diego and Tijuana on a daily basis to go to work or school. Many American citizens live in Tijuana simply because it provides for a much more affordable cost of living. Meanwhile, these people spend hours a day crossing into San Diego.
Currently, along the Tijuana/San Ysidro border, there are large steel fences already erected which have been there for quite some time. Alvarado tells us that in these areas, tunnels are oftentimes built under the fences and undocumented immigrants use these tunnels to circumvent the obstacles.
Down in Tijuana, along the border, Alvarado says the people are very welcoming to refugees and immigrants fleeing from Central America. This has been going on for years, at a consistent rate, “every single day”.
“We’ll probably end up adopting them, and offering them jobs if they decide to stay here,” Alvarado explains of the Central American migrants. “Of course, there will always be a few bad apples when you have a massive amount of people regardless of their nationality, but mainly they’re humble people fleeing from their country asking for humanitarian help from those of us that can provide it. “
Tijuana seems to be a very welcoming place for refugees, no matter where they originate from. Alvarado told us that years ago when many Haitians were negated asylum in the United States, the people of Tijuana took them in and accepted them as Mexican citizens.
“They work and get along fine with us in Tijuana. They are wonderful people and very kind,” Alvarado explained. “After the 2008 recession we had in the US, we had a lot of American citizens; Caucasian and African Americans come to live in Tijuana. A lot of Mexicans came back as well. The citizens in Tijuana don’t care and we welcome them and practice their Spanish with them. The government officials don’t care either, regardless if they’re here legally or not.”
Life Along the Border in Pearce, Arizona
There are four states on the U.S. southern border. Arizona happens to be one of them, and while you don’t hear about the state in the news nearly as much as you do with Texas, California, and even New Mexico, the people within the region also have some stories to tell of immigration.
Meet David King, a U.S. citizen in his early 60s, living just 41 miles and working just 8 miles north of the southern border.
While the current administration would lead some people to believe that living along the border in any of the four border-states would be like living within a war zone, King tells a much different story.
“I can leave my door unlocked without worrying,” King tells us. “I’ve had more contact and harassment from Border Patrol because I have to go through a border check just north of Elfrida every time I come home from work.”
King wishes that immigrants could simply apply for and have the ability to become U.S. citizens. From his point of view, they have only been beneficial to his community. He tells us that since President Trump has started his “hate campaign”, he has seen an increasing amount of abuse aimed at Spanish speaking American citizens than anything else.
“Immigrants are generally honest. They spend a lot of money for home improvements at my store. Yes there’s drugs but the cartels bring it in through tunnels or attach them to American cars when they are parked in border towns. Cartels don’t climb the fences. I’m angry that Trump has concentration camps. The immigrants and the American people deserve better.”
King emphasized that immigrants living in his region have not taken jobs away from Americans, like some Americans often claim. Instead, he tells us that he sees immigrants taking jobs that most Americans are unwilling to do. This includes jobs such as “farm work, housekeeping, home/auto repair, and yard maintenance.”
“Some make money cooking tortillas and tamales at home and selling in parking lots. eventually a lot go into opening their own business. If it weren’t for immigrant workers a lot of American owned business would close.”
Life Along the Border in El Paso, Texas
When many of us think of El Paso, Texas, the first person that pops into our minds is Congressman Beto O’Rourke. The 46-year old native El Pasoan ran a very well respected campaign against Texas Senator Ted Cruz in 2018. While O’Rourke came up short in the election, he certainly helped throw a few counterpunches at President Trump’s immigration rhetoric in the process.
El Paso, Texas borders the Mexican city of Ciudad Juárez, so the community is quite familiar with immigrants from the south.
Ms. Hernández was born and raised in El Paso and lived their full-time before taking a job overseas. She now visits El Paso at least twice per year. When HillReporter first reached out to Hernández in regards to Trump’s repeated attempts to build a wall along the southern border, she, like others whom we have spoken too along the border, insisted that the border wall is a bad idea.
“First things first, there is already a wall between El Paso and Juarez, Mexico,” Hernández told us. “There is no need to build or add to this wall. I believe that there is a better way, for example, to fix the current system that is obviously broken, as there are more over-stayed VISAS than there illegal crossings.”
Hernández emphasized that El Paso has been named one of America’s safest cities over the past 10 years. She, like the other individuals we have interviewed along the border, spoke about the unique way of life and the advantages that “border cities” provide.
While local commerce depends significantly on daily border crossings, so too does academia. Each day many Mexican students cross the border to attend classes at the University of Texas at El Paso.
Many students at the University attend on special student VISAS which allow them to cross the border without significant delays. Hernández says that the revenues that these students bring into the University and the country as a whole are a “win for all.”
The very thought of closing down the border as Trump has repeatedly threatened, brings feelings of disgust and nervousness to Hernández.
“El Paso needs Cuidad Juarez as much as they need us for daily life. El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico could be a great example to the rest of the world on how this is can be a safe, possible way of life and how we can make things work where all can benefit. Our border does not need a wall, we could use the money for so many other, much more important things.”
Hernández elaborated by telling us that she believes border security should include 21st-century technology rather than old ideas such as concrete barriers. She says that El Paso understands border security and they know how to implement it because they deal with it every single day. Much of their border security depends on direct lines of communication with Ciudad Juárez. Unfortunately, however, she explained that some of these lines of communication have been “severed” due to “the rhetoric from our current administration.”
The community of El Paso doesn’t view Ciudad Juárez as an adversary. In fact, the relationship is one of mutual respect, dignity, and reliance.
“I just can’t imagine what would happen if these borders were closed. That would be a costly loss for the city of El Paso, as it would be also for our sister city, Ciudad Juarez.”
Hernández tells us that even among conservatives within the region, there isn’t a fear of migrants, but rather a “hypocrisy”. She says that they would prefer to “put blinders on than decry” President Trump.
“They know that building a wall would be useless. They refuse to look at facts and studies that show that migrant crime is low. They would rather stay status quo with their administration than to see and speak the truth. The truth is that all the rhetoric about the wall is based on just one thing, racism, there is no other explanation.”