(CNN) – The trail for Mexican migrants trying to enter the U.S. is one filled with hope, horror, and hidden tunnels.
For years, the vigilance along the U.S. southern border has been growing. Hundreds of miles of fencing, border patrol agents crisscrossing the remote terrains and urban streets, ground sensors, and high-powered cameras keep constant watch. But now, smugglers go where the cameras and eyes can’t see them.
Lance Lenoir is part of specialized team of border patrol agents known as “the tunnel rats.” They work underground, navigating newly discovered tunnels and sewer systems.
Homeland security officials say in the last 10 years, nearly 30 of these tunnels have been discovered just in the San Diego area alone.
Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Juan Munoz said, “They will continue to go on. Between the Mexican and U.S border, yes they will continue. If there’s a way that these drug trafficking organizations can stay undetected, and it’s by tunneling, they will.”
Lenoir says the tunnels are used to move large packs of marijuana and cocaine and are often lined with electrical power and ventilation.
Fighting this ingenuity below ground has fundamentally changed life on the border above ground.
Alicia and Chris Martin spend their lives straddling both sides of the border. They own organic farms in Mexico and a produce distribution business and one of the most unique restaurants in Nogales, Mexico.
As a child, Alicia remembers freely crossing the border into Mexico. She said, “We would come down in our bathing suits, as kids, come down buy popsicles, get the ice cream and go back.”
But with immigration controls tightening on the U.S. side and the fear of cartel violence, “La Roca” has struggled to keep its doors open.
Alicia noted, “It was like all of a sudden somebody came in and hit the switch, there was nobody in town. There was nobody in the streets.”
She continued, “They are difficult problems to solve. Throwing up trade barriers, putting up a wall. They are such harsh approaches to the problems. And once again, you are treating a symptom and you aren’t going after the root cause of the problem.”
Perhaps no place symbolizes the impact of tightened border security quite like Boquillas, Mexico. It is one of the smallest, legal border checkpoints you will find. There are literally two little boats and a guy who rows you across.
Boquillas is a small town of 200 people. Its life line is tourists that venture across the Rio Grande for the tamales at Jose Falcon’s restaurant. Lilia Falcon runs the restaurant her father opened in 1973. But after 9/11, the United States closed the Boquillas border crossing, and the town slowly started dying. Falcons had to close.
The entry point re-opened almost 4 years ago, and Falcon’s is back, but Lilia Falcon worries about Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigration and border security.