Phoenix: ‘Border Matters’ Mark One Week Since Trump’s ‘Blame on Both Sides’ Speech

Anniversary Day Marked by a Rally and Protests

It’s been a week since Trump exhaled his true feelings on Charlottesville.  POTUS marks the anniversary with a rally in Phoenix, AZ tonight, where he launched his immigration rhetoric during the campaign season last year. What a week. Damning and awakening—that cyclical wave most of us road with our throats closing and eyes welling.

Tonight, more protests—large protests—are expected, condemning Trump’s truth which found voice last Tuesday: “I think there is blame on both sides… You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say it, but I will say it right now.”

The Mayor of Phoniex, Greg Stanton (D) has been asking Trump to delay the trip since last week, via phone, via public plea, but to no avail. Mayor Stanton went so far as to write an open letter to The Washington Post dated August 21, 2016. The first three paragraphs of the letter read as follows:

Greg Stanton, a Democrat, is mayor of Phoenix.
Nearly 50 years ago, moments after learning that an avowed racist had gunned down Martin Luther King Jr., a young presidential candidate took the stage in Indianapolis to break the news to a largely African American crowd.

“What we need in the United States is not division,” Sen. Robert F. Kennedy implored. “What we need in the United States is not hatred. What we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom and compassion toward one another.”

It was exactly what the grief-stricken crowd needed to hear. There were riots in many cities that night, but not in Indianapolis.

In stark contrast, Trump, with leadership protocol in hand, threw aloof yet divisive shadows unto a shocked and grieving nation. Last week we watched as Trump outdid himself. He managed to leave a stain more indelible than the one that we haven’t been able to wash away: Election Day 2016.

A Short Tour of the Mexican Border

Trump’s campaign-style rally tonight will focus on immigration and a border wall, DACA and related topics.

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to visit about 60 miles of the U.S.-Mexican border stretching SoCal’s coast with my media colleagues from NAHJ (National Association of Hispanic Journalists).

One thing that stood out during the tour:  There is not a single solution to the problem of border crossings nor the  consideration of human factor.  Border issues call for a multi-faceted approach.  It’s also worth noting that unless crossers have a criminal record, they are released and deported if caught.

Below is a photo of the border fence with soldered cuts.  As you can see, it’s a popular crossing point:

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A bit of context: It takes about a minute and a half to cut through the fence, Border Patrol Agent Saul Rocha tells us. Gauging the time is important when trying to catch crossers. For example, if an agent knows that his teammates are more than 7 minutes away, and that once the fence is cut it’s a matter of the crosser leaping several hundred yards while stripping layers of shirts and landing in a sea-of-people in some cases.  At which point, troopers cannot definitively spot the crosser.

Below:  The numbers on the fence allow troopers to convey location.  See if you can spot the patrol agent under fence #1618. The sock like item made using fabric insulation, dubbed a ‘bootie,’ is worn to avoid footprints.

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In some places fencing doesn’t make sense. For example, in the photo below, it was deemed that a road was more necessary after a trooper died trying to cross. Instead of fences, sensors are used. The problem with sensors? They pick up animals and inclement weather too.


The Wall:

The Wall. There was a stretch that housed a border wall. Unfortunately, I was not able to capture a photo.  I wondered how long it takes a border-crosser to penetrate it.  So I ask Patrol Agent Rocha. He tells me it is as quick as a Slim Jim to a car lock using tools purchased from a store like Home Depot. That’s a lot quicker than a minute and a half, the allotted time for penetrating a fence.  Although, Patrol Agent Rocha said, in his opinion, the wall makes sense in certain areas of the almost 2,000 mile border we share with Mexico.  Considerations to be taken include:  Hotspots for crossing, terrain, manpower, use of technology, timing, location, and weather.

Friendship Park:  Peeking at Tijuana from San Diego

The name just hung in the air as I looked around. I saw Patrol SUVs, infrared spotlights to catch night swimmers, and a park to my right; ocean hues straight ahead; and to my left a fence, part of it with slits that make it’s way to the ocean. Towards land the slits are covered with a grid.  Yet, from the park’s bluffs you can look down at the Tijuana Estuary.

Showing humanity in this game of hide and seek helps.  Patrol Agent Rocha explained that smugglers were given lighter sentences if they acted humane with crossers.  For example, if a smuggler is trafficking people in a trailer with an escape hatch he/she will get less jail time than a smuggler that doesn’t provide an escape hatch.

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As I take in the sea air, and the people standing across the slitted fence from me, a grey haired man places his hand out for me to to shake.  “We are friends,” he says.

“Yes, yes we are,”  I reply, taking his hand in mine.

My heart finds pride as other reporters and Mexican residents do likewise.

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