Neighbors and Friends
I live in Michigan, so to me “border crossing” looks like the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor:
When I was little, crossing the bridge was actually tougher than crossing the border. We had to line up our cars to pay a bridge toll, and that could take a few minutes. But we didn’t have to show anything to get into Canada or back into the US. We just smiled at the border agents 🙂 and sailed across.
In fact, when I was in high school in the late 1990s, crossing from California to Mexico was just about as easy. We waited in our cars, and talked to border agents, but we didn’t need to show any passports, birth certificates, or even driver’s licenses. It looked something like this:
Until about 2005, we didn’t worry too much about illegal crossings. The idea was that if you were a drug dealer, you’d be arrested for that crime. If you were sneaking, the border patrol would find you. And otherwise, you’d probably just re-cross eventually.
Of course, 9/11 attacks changed all of that. For a lot of good reasons, we had to increase border security, and everyone, even citizens of Canada, US, and Mexico all had to show passports or an “enhanced” ID. Now, it’s tougher to cross the border. This change in policy 12 years ago has led to a change in how many people actually cross over without paperwork: today, the number of persons crossing the southern border without paperwork is only 10% of what it was in 2005.
But, if you have paperwork, it’s still pretty easy to cross the border. Especially if you don’t mind walking across! (the car lines are a little long).
Two different Borders
First, we went to a great local park.
Friends, we are standing on the US side, and you can see the Mexican park on the other side. It’s less than a football-field length away. On weekends, boats can be launched from docks on each side, and everyone parties together on the Rio Grande River. There were some police around, but they were very casually enjoying their day in the park. Not scary, not threatening. Birds and fish cross from one park to the next.
The current border fence proposal would put a fence in the middle of the river.
This seemed so obvious to both of us – the current border patrol efforts seem pretty effective. I’m not sure an expensive fence would help them much.
Then, we decided to officially cross over into Mexico.
First, we parked our car in a lot near the border. You can see the border by the big fence. I found it hilarious that the “big” fence is so short…
Then, we walked from McAllen, TX to Reynosa, Mexico, via a pedestrian bridge over the Rio Grande River.
There’s a pedestrian lane on both sides of some car-friendly lanes. There is another bridge for cars going the other direction. Underneath us is the Rio Grande. I costs $1 to cross from US to Mexico and $0.25 to cross from Mexico to the US. The bridge is shared by the two cities collectively.
Once we got into Mexico, we immediately saw blocks of Dentists, Doctors, and Pharmacists – likely charging much cheaper prices than their TX neighbors:
We walked into downtown to see the local Catholic Church
Take a Selfie in the Plaza Centro
And eat too much lunch (for way too little money). We walked back to our car when we were done, and were back to our air b&b for a siesta during the intense heat.
Honestly, folks, there wasn’t a good way to “sneak” across. Not here. The border patrol uses a variety of tactics on both sides of the border, and it’s pretty easy and cheap to cross legally at several different places. People who arrive at this location are hoping to turn themselves in voluntarily to border police, or they have paperwork to cross. I’m not sure where someone would try to sneak people, drugs, or guns, but it isn’t here.
We did other fun things in the border town – stay tuned for more updates all week!