The United States and Mexico share a border that's 2,000 miles long. But only one-third of it is covered by a wall, costing $2.4 billion dollars. Presidential candidate Donald Trump wants to finish that wall.
"I will build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words," Trump said when officially announcing his candidacy.
We wanted to know how well the wall we have now works?
And because you hear a lot about the big, bad liberal media, reporter David Schechter is taking along someone who will likely vote for Trump. Nick Musteen is a business man, father and small-town city councilman. He likes the idea of the wall.
"Here we are. What do you want to know?" Schechter asked Musteen after landing in at Harlingen Airport.
"I can't wait to see the wall. You hear about it your entire life about the border. The fear. The paranoia, the hype. I want to see this thing. I want to touch it," he said.
An hour away, in Progreso, Robert Cameron, with Texas Border Tours, is taking us on an ATV ride along the wall.
Seeing it up close, immediately, Musteen has a question.
"What's the hole here? And over there? And over there?" Musteen asked Cameron. "We saw them all over the place,"" said Schechter.
What they found are permanent gaps in the wall big enough to drive a truck through. How is that possible?
By treaty, neither the US nor Mexico, can build in the flood plain of the Rio Grande. So, in spots, the wall can be up to a half-mile north of the river. That far north, the wall frequently cuts through private property and farms.
But while the government can take your land it can't take away access to your property.
“The breaks allow farmers to bring their equipment in to till this land,” Cameron said. "You don’t need a ladder. You just need legs,” Schechter said, talking about scaling the wall.
“I don’t even have to knock, 'Hey can I come in?" Musteen said. "Does this make sense to you?” Schechter asked.
“No,” said Musteen.
“Before this, what was here, was just open,” Cameron told the two. “Cross wherever you want, now you can only cross right here,” Schechter said.
“They can only cross here now,” answered Cameron.
And, in many cases, that's what is happening. The gaps funnel migrants into predictable places making it easier for Border Patrol to round them up.
“Do we need a bigger border wall?” Musteen asked Cameron, who was born in Mexico but migrated here legally with his family when we was younger.
“Absolutely. 100%. This is 20 feet. It needs to be 40 or 50 feet higher," Cameron said. As they prepare to finish the ATV tour, Schechter had a final question for Musteen.
“What are you thinking?” Schechter asked.
“We could do a lot more, doesn't matter what political affiliation you’re with,” he answered.
Over in McAllen, we met Republican Party Chair, Sergio Sanchez at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. In 2014, the church struggled to care for a surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America.
"Would a bigger wall. Wider, taller, stronger, keep them out?” Musteen asked Sanchez.
“It's more than building a wall,” Sanchez said. “The only thing that will stop people are people,” he added. Sanchez wants funding for more agents on the ground and patrol boats in the Rio Grande.
“A continuous wall in my opinion is an emotional response to a very real problem that needs a solution," Sanchez said.
Down in the Rio Grande Valley, Musteen is coming to realize the border holds more surprises then he expected as he strikes up a conversation with Tomas DeLeon, who manages a water district on the river.
"What's the craziest thing that's happened to you out here?” Musteen asked. “We've been shot right here. Next to our pumps,” said DeLeon.
“You've been shot?” asked Schechter.
“Shot at, twice," DeLeon says. Tomas thinks he got too close to drugs that caught up in a grate.
"You think they were trying to kill you?” Schechter asked. “Maybe," he answered.
While we were with him, DeLeon pointed out a man in a tree across the river, on the Mexico side, staring back at us.
"Wow. You only read about that,” Musteen said. "Maybe he's getting ready to cross some people or some bundles,” Musteen said.
“It’s common you see that a lot?” Schechter asked. “Oh yeah," said DeLeon.
“So we could be standing here in the middle of drug deal. That's always comforting,” concluded Musteen.
Early the next morning, we're an hour east, in the Southernmost neighborhood of Brownsville, where a two-lane road cuts through the wall.
Tony Zavaleta is a former Democratic official and vocal opponent of the wall.
"Do we need a bigger better wall?” Musteen asked him. “No. We don’t need any wall. We need people. We need technology, we need boots on the ground,” said Zavaleta.
The three are standing at a location where a popular street cuts through an opening in the wall.
“What would happen if you closed the wall here?” Schechter asked Zavaleta.
"You would literally cut off this community. There are elementary and middle schools right down the road, people wouldn't be able to get there. They'd have to go all the way around.
“So we built a wall and there's a school right back there,” Musteen said.
“Yeah, a couple of them,” Zavaleta said. “School on one side of the wall and neighbors on the other side of the wall.
“That makes absolutely no sense,” said Musteen. “No it doesn't make any sense at all,” Zavaleta said.
Right around the corner from that spot is Pamela Taylor and her large road sign that protests against the wall. The placement of the border fence isolates her home on the south side of the wall. And she's had some surprise migrant visitors.
"I have an illegal sitting there in that rocking chair,” Taylor told Schechter and Musteen as they sat in her living room.
“You had a person sitting in your chair?” Schechter asked. “I had a person sitting there,” said Taylor.
She’s had a surprise addition.
"I've had a baby born on my patio, outside my bedroom," she said. And she’s had a surprise find.
"It was 40 kilos of marijuana,” said Taylor. “40 kilos of marijuana was on your property?” asked Schechter.
“Yes," she answered.
Since the wall was built Taylor's continued to see a steady stream of immigrants crossing her property. Pamela even leaves cold water out so they'll stop coming to her door.
“You would like the wall gone completely?” Musteen asked Taylor, about the wall.
“It’s not doing any good,” she answered.
Musteen’s heard a lot and seen a lot. Now it’s time to wrap it up.
“The wall we have today. Do you feel that wall is working?” Schechter asked Musteen. “No. From what I've seen, no I don't,” Musteen said.
So, we did verify the wall we have now doesn’t work the way most people think it does. Many people down here, across party lines, think the wall doesn't work at all.
Musteen’s question was do we need a bigger border wall?
"Honestly, I come away from this feeling those gaps we saw, that are there on purpose, need to be shut. Those need to be shut,” he said.
"But then you trap the school on the other side of the wall, you trap (Pamela) on the other side of the wall. Farmers who can't get to their fields. How can you close those gaps?” Schechter asked.
“That's a big problem to work around. But it's a workable problem. I see that as a workable problem,” he said.
“Only one person said more wall. Everyone else said more boots on the ground. But you still say more wall. Why?” asked Schechter.
“It needs to be finished. I think a lot of us, as Americans would feel better knowing those gaps are closed,” he said.
While many people down here see the flaws in the wall we already have and think more wall is not the answer, that's not what Nick concluded. He thinks the cost and effort to finish the wall is still worth it.
Don't take our word for it, take his.
- We know you want the truth and you don’t always believe the media gives it to you. So, this week we’re throwing out our news playbook and experimenting a bit. We’re taking real people on the road. They’re asking their own questions and reaching their own conclusions. It’s called Verify.
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