The border near Yuma Arizona looks like a militarized zone. You don't realize it when you first drive into San Luis, the small border town cut in half by an international boundary. There's a bustling main street feeding right into Mexico. That's the legal crossing. A few blocks away on either side, the view changes: three rows of fencing, stadium lights, border patrol trucks reinforced with metal grates, and National Guard camps complete with camouflage netting.
On the day we arrived, five men climbed the first ten foot fence and dropped down into the U.S. It was the middle of the afternoon, and it didn't take long for a border patrol agent to spot them. Two were caught. The other three must have mistaken the SUV my photographer Max Stacy was driving for an unmarked border patrol truck, because as soon as he approached they ran back to the fence, one flashing a peace sign as he disappeared into Mexico. At least, we think it was the peace sign. They didn't throw rocks.
I couldn't help but wonder what life was like on the other side of that fence. We crossed the border into Mexico to find out. I was surprised to find it looks like a typical neighborhood. A row of homes sits not thirty feet from the border. There are barking dogs and chatty neighbors and children walking home from school. No police. People told me the only rock throwers they'd seen were kids making trouble. But along one stretch of fence was a stack of more than a hundred brick pavers, just like the ones that seem to be magnets for border patrol agents on the other side. The woman living across from this stack of bricks told me the pile is part of a makeshift patio where she and her family sit in the evenings.
It was clear no one on the Mexican side wanted to talk about smugglers. They're either oblivious or afraid. I'm betting on the latter.