5 things that surprised us during our 10 days on the US-Mexico border

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BROWNSVILLE, Texas (Border Report) — After spending 10 days driving along the border of the United States and Mexico, the BorderReport.com Tour came to a close Tuesday evening in Brownsville, Texas.

We started Sunday, September 22 in San Diego — a little unsure about what we might discover as we sought to document what life was really like along the international line.

Along the way, there were plenty of things that surprised our team of journalists. Here are a few of the highlights:

OPEN BORDERS WITH MEXICO

“I think what has surprised me the most on this trip is seeing the wide stretches of the Texas border that has no wall or physical barrier – just the Rio Grande – and how the different communities along those parts of the border cope with people crossing the river.

“In some areas, we talked to people who clearly are concerned, and it’s a safety problem — for example, the rancher we spoke with in Marfa, Texas. In other areas like El Cenizo, Texas, people crossing the river didn’t seem like a problem to the residents who live there.”

Anna Wiernicki, BorderReport.com Tour correspondent

RELATED LINK: Texas town known for Spanish-only ordinances now embraces bilingualism

“Seeing the juxtaposition of the Eagle Pass, Texas Gulf Club nestled up along the Rio Grande and an eighth of a mile away across the river is what appears to be the peaceful neighborhood of Piedras Negras, Mexico. Just past hole two is the port of entry bridge that connects U.S. to Mexico. No wall, no fence, no rushing masses of people trying to enter the United States. Just a golf course ending its day with sprinklers turned on to water the fairways.

“Not that there aren’t issues with border security and crime but like any other city in America, the majority of people seem to go about their lives just like you and me. They just happen to live next to a different country.”

Chris Berg, Senior Director of Local Content Development for Nexstar Media Group

Eagle Pass Golf Club sits next to the port of entry into Mexico in Eagle Pass, TX. (Photo by Chris Berg)

TREACHEROUS CROSSING AND COMPASSION FROM BORDER PATROL AGENTS

“I was surprised to learn Guatemalan families are walking days through Big Bend National Park where there isn’t a spit of shade.

“When Border Patrol agents catch them, those agents are bringing canopy pop up tents to cover them as they process these groups.”

Sandra Sanchez, BorderReport.com Correspondent

RELATED LINK: Rafting down the Rio Grande at Big Bend

Border Patrol agent renders aid to a pregnant Guatemalan woman found in Big Bend National Park. (Photo from Border Patrol)

FEAR OF THE US-MEXICO BORDER

“I’m still surprised that so many people in the United States are still afraid of Mexico. Thousands of people cross the U.S.-Mexico border every day to work, shop, eat and visit relatives on the other side of the border and nothing ever happens to them. In many cases, people themselves over there will go out of their way to protect a visitor or a stranger.”

Julian Resendiz, BorderReport.com correspondent

The border wall in Downtown Nogales, Arizona. (Julian Resendiz/Border Report)

DIFFERENCES IN SECURITY AND STRICTNESS

“Going into the tour, I knew there wasn’t “wall” everywhere along the border. However, it’s eye-opening to see the stark difference depending on where you were. Where we started in California, you couldn’t get within feet of the pedestrian fencing without Border Patrol quickly coming your way to cut you off. In fact, our Sandra Sanchez found that out the hard way.

“As we traveled East, that all changed. You could get closer to the wall and Border Patrol agents were generally far less strict.

“I also found it a little unbelievable how much open border there is in Texas. Enforcing those borders is extremely difficult.”

Austin Kellerman, Director of Digital Content for Nexstar Media Group

RELATED LINK: Agent threatens to arrest reporter near San Diego border wall

San Diego, California border with Mexico.

STRONG RELATIONSHIPS THAT CROSS INTERNATIONAL BORDERS

“What I found surprising when I began on the BorderReport.com tour was regardless of whether there is a wall, or not a wall, people constantly talk about their interdependent relationships with Mexico.

“They often reflect on their history with Mexico and partnerships due to the close proximity.”

Steffi Lee, Producer/Reporter for BorderReport.com Tour

RELATED LINK: Nogales residents empathize with migrants but favor legal entry

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