Visiting the US-Mexico Border in San Diego — VIDEO0
I heard about a fence. But most of the images I saw on television showed dirt roads, a river, and people trying to run or drive across a border patrolled by heavily armed officers in SUVs. Most of the images showed smugglers trying to transport drugs in areas scarcely patrolled. This is what I knew of the border.
The journey to the border for Feature Story News focused on the Otay Mesa Port of Entry, where drugs are carefully smuggled into the US right under the noses of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. ICE officers know where to look, and have recently found drugs in cars being given to people that answered “help wanted” advertisements.
I was told drug cartels were placing advertisements in newspapers in Tijuana, looking for drivers to transport goods across the border. In some cases, it was cleaning supplies. In others, employees would be required to take a vehicle across the border for work in San Diego. The employees weren’t supposed to know about the hidden drugs. Yet, when ICE officers found the drugs, it’s the employees that would be arrested and charged.
While reporting this story, me and my photographer filmed not only filmed the port, but also, the border. We drove to the fence that separates the United States from Tijuana. I was surprised to see how close people lived to the fence in Tijuana.
I was also surprised to see two fences. The fence along the actual border is dark green and seems fairly low in comparison to the second fence. The second is taller and includes barbed wire at the top. Vehicles on patrol will drive between the two fences. The fence was repaired over and over again; likely signs of people trying to cross illegally.
Each time we stopped to film, we would be approached by officers. Some would ride on four-wheelers. At night, the officers would keep the lights off. But we could hear them coming. We were on public roads, albeit rock roads, and are allowed to film freely. The officers were nice, and I believe they simply wanted to make sure we weren’t there to transport anyone from across the border.
There was one place we went that intrigued me. We were on a hill overlooking Tijuana. I could see people walking around and hear the life of the city. Roosters crowing, dogs barking, kids playing, and motorcycles traveling. After spending some time filming, we were getting ready to leave. I heard a whistle. I looked over the fence and saw some people waving. We were so close, yet worlds apart.
Friendly neighbors, I thought. But my photographer reminded me that this could be a dangerous place, and we could very easily be shot at from across the border. I waved back and we got in the car and left.
Here’s a video from that spot– my favorite:
(all photos taken on an iPhone by Lindsey Mastis)