Two Sides of the Border Story

San Ysidro Port of Entry
Thousands of cars cross from Mexico into the United States at the San Ysidro Port of Entry each day.

Illegal immigration is a problem for both the United States and Mexico.

But I’m guessing you’re only sort of familiar with the problem from the American perspective? Each day tens of thousands of Americans illegally enter Mexico without proper documentation.

Most tourists don’t realize that their illegal entry invalidates their car insurance without proper documentation, meaning they are driving illegally and financially responsible for damages should they get in an accident. (Among a host of other problems.) Many more skip the paperwork for their longer stays, 30-60-90 days, without paying for a visitor’s permit. Cumulatively this costs Mexico hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue from permit fees.

Don’t even get me started on people who don’t pay customs duty on commercial goods they sneak in.

Still others move to TJ because it’s cheaper to live without thinking of the families they are displacing… rents in TJ are among the highest in Mexico because of this…, then not becoming legal temporary legal residents with a proper visa, or caring one iota about doing things the right way… they just want to save money on rent. Saves them money but costs a lot of people.

Still others move to Mexico permanently without getting a work visa for their “work from home” job. (They also lie to their employers, putting their employers in legal peril.) So they aren’t paying taxes on their income in Mexico or frankly doing anything the right way. They create workarounds to skip importing their cars, registering them in South Dakota, invalidating their no-South Dakota drivers licenses along the way… but hey, they saved some money?

I say all of this because if you don’t live in the borderlands, or even if you do and don’t cross between countries, you don’t see that there are two sides to the border story. You only hear that illegal immigration is a problem for the United States.

It’s a problem for both countries. (And not a problem in other ways, too.)

Our region, San Diego & Tijuana, is about 6 million people divided by a political border. Hundreds of thousands of residents of San Diego County and Baja California have lives on both sides of the border, many crossing every single day for work or school or whatever. (And millions will never cross in their lifetimes!)

You’ll never cover border issues well in a 2-minute piece on the news, or an article, or even Adam’s Facebook. (And I only know 10 miles of a border that’s 1500 miles long!)

My encouragement is, if you want to learn more, to come and see for yourself.

Make the time. You’ll learn it’s really complicated. It goes way beyond “they should enter our country legally” because both countries are intertwined through family ties, finances, culture, and so much more. Both sides depend on both legal and illegal entry. Whether you know it or not, if you are reading this, you depend on and benefit from people crossing both ways, legally or illegally.

It’s complicated. Really complicated. But start by acknowledging there are two sides to every story.

And then make the time to come and learn.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

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