CALEXICO, Calif. – (KSEE24) The border wall is getting closer to becoming a reality, and nobody will experience the change like those who live at the border.
From border cities like Calexico, Calif. to rural areas, most living down here have some sort of opinion on the barriers running along our southern border.
Some say they want change; others say it is fine the way it is.
Mexican license plates. Pedestrian-filled sidewalks. Hourslong waits at border crossings – and border patrol SUVs are normal for border towns.
Nearly 40,000 people live in Calexico, and the town is bustling.
That is because another 40,000 people cross into this city every day.
“We are very much like Mexicali,” Calexico Mayor Armando Real said. “We are the gateway to another country.”
The city limits stop at a tall metal border fence.
You can see and hear the life on the other side in Mexicali, Mexico.
The Mexicali metro area is much bigger with over a million people.
Real said the thousands who cross are vital for his city to function.
“Studies have shown that 70 to 90 percent of the business that we depend on is from the consumer across the border,” Real said.
At 3 p.m. on a Friday, the crowded sidewalks are filled with students with backpacks.
A majority of them are walking south of the border – back home to Mexicali.
“All the kids from high school that go to our high school locally – all these kids live in Mexicali. You can follow them back they all live over there,” Real said.
Real, who is also the Calexico ambassador to Mexicali, says the U.S. town would simply shut down without its sister city.
“You don’t want to go to your neighbors house if you feel you are not wanted there,” Real said.
Since President Trump took office, Real said he has noticed a difference.
“They feel now that the government now looks at them in a different way,” Real said.
The administration’s infamous wall is a reality for people here. It is something they see and interact with every day.
“Whether the wall is 18 or 30 feet – or 40 feet – the person that wants to get over it will,” Real said.
The reaction from people Eyewitness News spoke to were not much different.
“Spending so much money for nothing that they’re going to be able to stop,” resident Francisco Pacheco said.
“There is already a wall. Building a bigger wall will not stop anybody from coming over,” resident Alejandra Gonzalez said.
The way of life may not change, but the sense of community between the cities might.
“The whole vibe would be different,” another resident said.
They say this tall metal fence that splits the two cities and countries works fine the way it is. Changing it may cause more harm than good.
If you head west for an hour to the rural community of Boulevard, Calif. in San Diego County, you will most likely get a different response.
“It has changed a lot since I was a kid,” said Robert Maupin, who lives on the border. “If we get a wall they can’t cut through and drive through …”
The south end of his 250-acre ranch is the border.
He walks the border armed with an AR-10 and has his dogs by his side.
And he has plenty of reasons as to why.
The 77-year-old widower lives here alone.
He knows this property like the back of his hand and can share story after story about what has happened here.
“This is what your fence looks like when it’s hit by a bunch of smugglers – they just drive right through it. that is why I started putting up the chain link,” Maupin said.
The fence built by the government wasn’t good enough for him. So he took his family’s protection into his own hands years ago – even building his own barriers.
This is the back fence that he has built here with the barbed wire, and he has barbed wire up top to stop people from coming over. And on the other side of this fence is the fence with Mexico that was built by the American government.
Maupin – a Trump supporter – says the wall would bring a sense of security and reduce the illegal crossings and activity.
“I would not mind at all I would even help build it – even at my age,” Maupin said.
He knows the southern border and immigration policies have many Americans up in arms…
“They are oblivious to what is going on and the danger of living here on the border,” Maupin said.
From being held hostage by the Mexican military, to shoot outs – the stories go on. He thinks the wall will change enough.
“As a sovereign nation, you must protect your borders,” Maupin said.
Life on the border is different.
Real said, “I don’t think the resources are being spent the right way.”
Some say no matter what barrier goes up, those desperate enough to get to this side will – one way or another.
Pacheco said, “A saying in Mexico – Mexico so far from God, so close to the United States.”
While some are eager for change, some are still fearful. But regardless, many will be keeping a close eye on what happens next.