Tim Loop at the gap in the border fence that leads to his Texas home.
BROWNSVILLE, Texas—Pamela Taylor's living room has a Santa-hat-wearing stuffed dog atop a red doily on her coffee table, poinsettias near the couch, and, in the center of the room, an angel-topped Christmas tree with a few wrapped presents underneath.
Outside, the Christmas spirit is less visible, amid repeated warnings to KEEP OUT—though a "Merry Christmas!" sign hangs next to a warning to would-be trespassers that they're being filmed by a surveillance system. Written outside the front gate is the message: "Don't even think about parking here."
This will be Taylor's fourth Christmas living on what some Texans call the "Mexican side" of the U.S. border fence. Although she lives in Texas, her home is south of the 18-feet steel-and-concrete border wall erected by the American government. Taylor, who is 84, can see it from her front porch.
The wall was built to satisfy a law, passed in 2006 and 2008, that authorized 700 miles of fence on the southern border, 315 miles of it in Texas. President Bush said the fence would make the border safer and was "an important step toward immigration reform." Many of the 2012 Republican presidential candidates, with the exception of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, say they want to build a fence that spans the entire U.S. border. The Brownsville area shows just how complicated that project would be.
Because of a decades-old treaty with Mexico prohibiting building in the Rio Grande floodplain, the government built its border fence more than a mile north of the snaky river, trapping tens of thousands of acres of Texas--land in Cameron and Hidalgo counties--on the wrong side of the fence. The border wall is also riddled with miles-long gaps, seemingly placed at random. The U.S. Border Patrol says that illegal crossers are pushed to these gaps, where they are more easily apprehended.
Some Texans, like Taylor, live completely on the other side of the $6.2 million-a-mile wall. Others had their property split in half by the fence, after the government seized portions of their land. At least 200 people in Cameron County had some of their land seized for the fence.
'It's really done nothing for us'
Ten years ago, Taylor found a stranger sitting in her living room. "He had used my bathroom, he had shaved and cleaned himself off and he was watching the border patrol go by, sitting in that rocking chair," she said in an interview with Yahoo News. A few years later, she found 40 kilos of marijuana hidden in her bougainvilleas.
Taylor says she had to work hard to get her citizenship when she married an American soldier and moved to Texas from England after World War II. She doesn't think illegal immigrants should get a chance to become citizens. "If anything comes really easy, it's not appreciated," she said.
But the government's solution to the problem strikes her as ridiculous. "It's really done nothing for us because they're still coming across," Taylor says. Earlier this year, teenage illegal immigrants pounded on her front door in the middle of the night. She called the Border Patrol, which arrested them and a group of Hondurans they were trafficking, according to Taylor. She keeps a gun and a taser in her house, just in case.
Read More »from The Texans who live on the ‘Mexican side’ of the border fence: ‘Technically, we’re in the United States’