Action News Investigates: The Border Wall

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The proposed border wall would fortify the existing fences which already cover 700 miles of the nearly 2,000-mile border with Mexico. (KFSN)

Nobody's sure how it will be paid for, but bids are being taken on President Trump's proposed wall along the US-Mexico Border.

"We'd love to participate in this project," Darin Marsella explained. "It's business for us."

Marsella's company Custom Modular Consulting of Fresno is hoping to get a contract to build housing for the construction workers who will build the wall. Marsella's not dissuaded by controversy or threats of a boycott to any company working on the wall.

"We are not afraid to bid on the wall because it's controversial," he said.

A Madera company, Steel Structures, is also bidding on part of the project. The proposed border wall would fortify the existing fences which already cover 700 miles of the nearly 2,000-mile border.

In the San Diego area, 60 miles of double fencing stretch from the ocean to the desert. Despite the fences, cameras and more than 2,000 border patrol agents, those seeking illegal entry still get through.

"People manage to get through the use of criminal activity," Border Patrol agent Mark Endicott explained. "They compromise the fence through the use of axes, battery-powered saws.

Building a wall is just one part of the Trump Administration's immigration crackdown. Undocumented immigrants are being rounded up and deported back to Mexico in record numbers.

Valeria Buelna Sainz works with some of the thousands of deportees stuck in shelters in Tijuana.

"It is a shock," she said. "Their lives will never be the same again. They have lost their house, their families, their jobs, their friends, everything they knew for the longest time. They are depressed and shocked for the longest time," she said.

Will a tougher wall help keep them in? Folks Action News talked to on both sides of the border didn't think so.

"I think it's like a Berlin wall," resident Raoul Acosta argued. "It's not really gonna stop anything."

"Well, I don't think so. They are going to spend a lot of money for nothing. You know Mexican's gonna cross the border," Luis Mesa said. "They don't care. They make the wall, they gonna make a tunnel or something like that, you know. They are going to spend the money for nothing."

And among the first likely to try going back are those already deported.

"They usually try to come back because of the economic situation," Buelna Sainz explained. "They still have to take care of their families and doing that in Mexico is just not possible."

While a tougher wall may be a ways off, hundreds of additional immigration and Border Patrol officers are being hired with a new mandate to seal the border.

"Our goal is to apprehend anyone who comes across without reservation or precondition," Endicott explained.

Just a few miles from the Mexican border at a community center in San Diego, a group of children are American citizens but many of their parents are not and immigration attorney Edward Orendain is hearing the parents concerns.

"They are mainly just afraid of being separated from their loved ones, their families, they don't know if they are going to go to work, or they are going to pick up the children and they are going to be detained," he said.

But at the San Ysidro Border Crossing, thousands of Mexicans and Americans legally go back and forth every day to work, to shop, to visit.

And for those who can't do it legally, Miguel Gonzalez who works in a Tijuana tourist shop says there's always a way in.

"Tijuana is like the open door to go to America," he said. "If you don't find yourself going there on your own, you can get somebody to take you there. Just pay him and he will take you."

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Those seeking illegal entry do face obstacles. The current fencing covers nearly 700 miles of the 2,000-mile border. In the San Ysidro sector, a double wall of fences stretches for 60 miles from the ocean to the desert.

"In 1986, we peaked with over 186,000 apprehensions in San Diego," Endicott said. "Last year just over 30,000."

An improved Mexican economy is credited with most of the decline in those seeking jobs in the US, but the cuts in the fence show some are still coming.

"When they make a hole big enough to crawl through, they will ferry a group through," Endicott explained.

One reason President Trump is calling for a tougher border wall is that he's described those crossing illegally as rapists and killers, but migrant advocate Enrique Morones says nearly all are just looking for work, and he doesn't believe a big wall will do much.

"So if Trump's wall is 30 feet, there's gonna be a 31-foot ladder now," he argued. "So, it doesn't stop people, it just slows them down."

Morones is with Border Angels, a group that helps migrants on both sides of the border - most notably by placing drinking water in the desert for those desperate enough to risk death getting into the United States looking for work.

"And the people that have been coming here, they go the only way they can, without papers. For the last several decades, they are continuing to come except areas that are very dangerous," he said. "The desert, they over the wall, they go through the ocean."

The border fence only extends about 300-feet into the water, leaving a whole ocean of ways to get around it.

"We are constantly challenged by people who try to swim, use jet skis, surfboards, who try to swim into the United States from Mexico," Endicott said.

While there are ways over, under and around all barriers, former Border Patrol Chief Don Riding sees a need for better security.

"A border wall of some type, whether it's bricks or fence or whatever is needed on much of the border, especially in California, Arizona and Mexico," he said.

But critics say no matter how long or how high it is, people will find a way around it. They say the real solution is to remove the political barriers which prohibit Mexicans and Central Americans from applying for legal entry into this country.

"To me, the best solution is number one, come up with a program for legal immigration that is reasonable," Riding said.

"So we should have some kind of humane system where people can apply and if there is work they will be allowed," Morones said.

The difficulty in getting a visa and the more than 20-year wait for a green card makes finding an illegal way the only option to many. It's estimated 11,000 men, women and children have died trying to make it across the border.

"Here's a little boy's shoe, now whether this person made it or not, I don't know, but it just breaks your heart thinking about this little boy, crossing in the desert, what happened, we don't know, but we don't want people to die," Morones said.
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mexicodonald trumpimmigration reformfresnoborder wallpolitics
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