- Residents of the California town of Calexico don’t want a border wall between them and their neighbouring town, Mexicali, which lies in Mexico. Where Trump wants to build a wall, a recently renovated steel fence exists, and it has already proved a nuisance to residents.
- The towns’ relationship is symbiotic and anything that could prove disruptive would hurt Calexico.
- Calexico residents say their community is being used by the president for political purposes in order to fight for a wall that they don’t even want.
When Donald Trump says that his administration has already overseen the construction of parts of the wall between Mexico and the US, he’s mostly talking about chunks of an existing fence that were renovated in the last two years. A length of that fence runs through the California town of Calexico, and its residents are already exhausted by the president’s demand for a wall.
“This is not a war zone,” Maritza Hurtado, Calexico’s former mayor, told The New York Times. “I’ve had a business here for 30 years and we’ve never needed the barbed wire. Why now? To me, it feels as if I’m enclosed.”
As Trump supporters, critics, and journalists nationwide alike debate whether the steel slats in Calexico are technically a “wall,” Hurtado gets to stare at the structure every day from her office, from which she can peer down to Mexico. It is a steel fence, now topped with barbed wire. Hurtado said she doesn’t like the look of it, said it makes her feel trapped, as if her small town is dangerous and violent. It is not.
The fence stands between her hometown and Mexicali, a Mexican town home to 1 million who often cross the border to shop in Calexico. The Mexican visitors are key to the small town’s economy. Meanwhile, Americans in Calexico will often cross to Mexicali and enjoy cheaper health care there.
“We’re right up against each other. Each city depends on the other,” Hildy Carrillo, the executive director of the Calexico Chamber of Commerce, told The Times. “The families are on both sides of the border. The businesses are on both sides of the border. And the education, the entertainment, and the culture are on both sides of the border.”
Instead of a wall, Calexico residents want the government to modernise the Calexico West Port of Entry, The Times reported. They hope an investment there might expedite traffic and increase business flow between the two towns.
Right now, The Times reported, the number of legal northbound crossers each day is extensive: around 20,000 pedestrians and up to 20,000 vehicles cross the border there every day. This means long lines for visitors.
“We have been waiting for that funding, for years, for our port of entry,” Hurtado told The Times. “That’s been our struggle. We don’t need a wall. We’ve been struggling to get the money for the door.”
Residents also shudder every time the president threatens to shut down the border.
“We’re depressed and you’re going to kill us if you shut things down,” Hurtado, who has made shirts saying “It’s Not A Wall,” said. “It’s like, help us by knowing us, you know?”
The real danger, residents told The Times, is the drug trafficking happening thanks to tunnel systems built by cartels. A wall, they pointed out, would not help with that.