Special report: Residents living along border weigh in on proposed wall, existing fence

Barriers vary from Tornillo to Santa Teresa

Border wall special report

EL PASO - President Donald Trump's executive order to construct a wall along the nearly 2,000-mile southern border is straining relationships between the U.S. and Mexico, and people along the border are at odds over the prospect of a wall.

As it stands, there are more than 600 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border: Some of it is steel fencing, standing 15-18 feet tall; some of it is simply a chain-linked fence or barbed wire; other areas along the border have vehicle barrier fencing; and some areas of the border don't have any barrier, other than the bone-dry Rio Grande.

ABC-7 followed the border fence from east of Tornillo to Sunland Park, N.M. About eight miles east of Tornillo, the steel fence that has metal mesh abruptly begins -- or ends if you're headed east.

Richard Martinez, a pecan farmer who lives right by the gap in the fence, said before the fence went up, he did have a lot of concerns with people illegally crossing over.

"A lot of illegals coming across," Martinez said. "I was worried at the time because my mother was here by herself, and they show up at all times of the night."

Martinez, who worked for U.S. Customs and Border Protection for 35 years, welcomes more border security.

"Hopefully, ol' Trump will continue the wall. I'm all for them, all the way," Martinez said. "The taller, the better. It's a deterrent. It won't stop everybody, that's for sure. It's not going to stop everybody, but it's a deterrent and that's exactly what we want."

This same style of fencing continues west for miles to San Elizario, where some homes are just yards away from the fence.

"There was no change (after the fence came up). Illegals are still hopping the fence," San Elizario resident Bert Gidcumb said. "They just go by, they don't cause any problems."

Susanna Rodriguez and her mother live even closer to fence. Rodriguez said living this close to the border is calm, and she is against the wall.

"It's kind of ridiculous because it's only a wall. It's not going to do anything," Rodriguez said. "It's just going to cover. We have one right now and it hasn't done anything."

West of San Elizario you start to see some chain-linked fencing and barbed wire in addition to the steel fence. That continues into El Paso, right along the Cesar Chavez Border Highway.

Near Downtown El Paso, the residents of the Chihuahuita neighborhood are nestled up against the wall, with some homes just inches away.

Chihuahuita resident Humberto Paura has lived in the neighborhood since 1972.

"Groups of 50 people would cross over illegally daily," Paura said in Spanish. "Now hardly anyone crosses over."

Paura's neighbor Gilberto Silva said he misses the days before there was a wall.

"We used to fish and swim in the canal," Silva said in Spanish. "People in Washington don't understand us. They've never been down here. They think we're all still riding horses down here."

From Chihuahuita, the fencing continues right along Paisano Drive. As it get closer to the Rio Grande, the steel fence transitions to chain-linked fencing.

Fencing again ends abruptly at Monument One, a marker that denotes the point where Mexico, Texas and New Mexico all meet. A Border Patrol spokesman said there's no fence there because it's a historic area.

West of Monument One is Mt. Cristo Rey, which is also free of fencing on the mountain. However, there is a heavy Border Patrol presence.

Former congressman and one-time sector chief of Border Patrol, Silvestre Reyes said there's no fencing there because it would have been to expensive to build on that rugged terrain. Instead, the Border Patrol opted to use those resources elsewhere.

"There may be other parts of the border, selected other areas where additional fencing could be required or necessary," Reyes said. "The big problem areas in El Paso, I think we've already addressed them."

About one mile West of Mt. Cristo Rey, the border fence picks back up in Sunland Park. It's a steel fence with tall columns, but it doesn't have mesh like the fencing in El Paso.

Residents in a neighborhood less than a mile away from the fence said there are no problems, as far as people crossing illegally.  

"Sometimes the Border Patrol, they're around here by my house looking for people that cross over -- like very close. But, it's not a problem for me," Joann Torres said.

Torres said she's against the idea of there being a complete border wall.

"There's already a wall, so why spend more money on another one," Torres said. "They can just keep doing what they've been doing all these years."

This style of border fencing then stretches all the way to the Santa Teresa Port of Entry.

"It's the most expensive and less effective proposal that's out there to better manage our border," Reyes said. "I believe that maybe there's 10 percent of our 2,000-mile border, where a structure, a wall, a fence makes sense."

Watch Mauricio Casillas' special report tonight on ABC-7 at 10.

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