In November 2021, I bought a 99-year lease on a lot in Hidalgo County, NM. If you’re not familiar with the area, it’s known as the Bootheel of New Mexico. It shares a border with Mexico and a state line with Arizona. If I stumbled and fell, there’s no telling what country or state I would land in. In March 2022, I finally moved onto my lot and started building.
After months of targeted harassment and discrimination from the development―not the community!―I have terminated my lease and will be leaving my lot. If this comes as a surprise to you, then you may have missed earlier blog posts, YouTube videos, and Instagram Reels detailing my experiences at the development. Check out Construction Is Stressful. Here’s How I’m Detoxing and I Am Tired of Having My Patience Testing This Weekend.
However, before I leave, I would like to share my experiences living in a border town. Note that this is not my first rodeo. In 2021, I lived in Winterhaven, CA. Like Hidalgo County, it shares a border with Mexico and a state line with Arizona. I have also camped along the Arizona-Mexico border several times. So, here’s what it’s like to live on the US-Mexico border.
Border Patrol Agents May Harass You
Yesterday, I met up with RV friends. We have all lived or RVed along the border at various times in our lives and shared similar experiences of being harassed and watched by Border Patrol agents. Another lady in Arizona shared that all the ways into and out of her Arizona border town had immigration checkpoints. I have even heard of Border Patrol agents harassing hikers on the CDT trail which passes through Hidalgo County (where I owned my lot) and Grant County (where I met up with my friends).
Within my first few weeks of moving to New Mexico, I went stargazing with some people from the development, and a famous astronomer. Border Patrol agents followed us to the lot, then approached an hour later to question our suspicious activities. Mind you, this is a very rural area known for little else but astronomy, bird watching, and ranches. On our way out, Border Patrol agents stopped and interrogated us again.
Since then, they have not stopped and questioned me. Samson is a one-of-a-kind truck and I am the only Black woman in town, so we are “memorable”. Nevertheless, in 15 minutes, you can count about a dozen or more Border Patrol vehicles going back and forth along the highway outside the development. You can’t miss those green stripes on the sides of pickup trucks towing horse trailers and ATVS.
You Have No Privacy
One couple at our small gathering shared stories of camouflaged drones peeping onto their former Arizona property. They could hear them but could not see them because they were expertly colored. The drones came from a nearby military base and would frequently patrol the area. In my county, what you see are these unmarked pickup trucks with very tall towers extending out of them. They go up to about 20-plus feet and have cameras.
These traffic cameras allegedly check license plates and other information as you go by. Consequently, Uncle Sam knows your every move in these areas. He knew when I left for Magdalena, NM, for a video shoot. He knew when I came back and when I left again to visit friends in Silver City, NM. He’ll know when I leave for good with my tiny home on wheels behind me and head up to the mountains to escape the madness I have experienced here.
One night, I was walking around outside, looking up at the stars. The following morning, my neighbor who had seen me told me never to do that again. She had seen Border Patrol agents in the field the night before with flashlights. In two instances, she saw also spotlights hit her trailer. She feared that, in the pitch-black night, they might think I was an illegal migrant and apprehend me or shoot me. I have kept my midnight wanderings on my lot since.
Residents Have Polar-Opposite Opinions
People in border towns have very diverse opinions and varying experiences about migrants coming across the border. One peculiar thing I have noticed is that Conservatives only seem to have poor experiences with migrants while the Liberals only have harmless stories to share. It could be that Conservatives and Liberals are selective about the stories they share with me, but that is, nevertheless, what I have noticed. So far, I have seen no exceptions.
For example, one of the Conservative contractors here told me a story of a man that migrants shot after he offered them water. He also shared another story of a man being surprised by migrants in his shed when he went to retrieve an item. He was also shot. One lady who lives alone on her ranch shared stories of them passing through her enormous property and even pounding on her doors.
She and her son talked about the kidnapping of a co-worker by drug cartels and the trash that migrants left along trails as they passed into America. I think one of the reasons they had so many problems is that their ranch is very secluded and enormous, making it difficult to secure or monitor. That, in turn, makes it a prime candidate as a pass-through area. My lot was closer to “town”.
Liberal stories are very different. They share stories of leaving water out for immigrants and rarely coming across them. One shared that her landlord found a migrant in her Airbnb, curled up and asleep. She left food and water, shut the door, and went back to her home. They were gone by morning and left the place in good condition. I have not heard a single violent story or one where they feared for their lives. On that note, no one in California seemed to complain about migrants coming across the border―at least, not to me!
Racism Is Reserved for Mexicans―Until People Want Tacos!
When I announced on Instagram that I was giving up my lot, many people assumed the people in my small town had finally gotten to me. I am in a very Conservative and predominantly White town and my neighbors have been nothing but nice to me. I have been welcomed in every store I walk into without the bat of an eyelash. I have never felt othered or uncomfortable here. My mom and grandma visited in March and felt exactly the same. I will also add, in defense of the community, that the developer who continued to harass me is not native to the area―or to the state, for that matter.
However, the story seems to be very different for Mexicans and Mexican Americans. The White people I have spoken to, who seem to have no problem with me, often speak of Mexicans like some pollution seeping across the border. Not all of them speak like this, but it is quite common. I have also spoken to one young Mexican-American who described how she was held back in school because English was her second language and she spat out words rapidly, even though she had decent grades. She was never given a chance to actually prove her intelligence: just automatically filed away into a “special” class.
One of the saddest parts of the conversation was when the young lady said, “I know some Mexicans do bad things, but we’re not all like that. We have good Mexicans too.” I put a stop to that line of argument immediately. I told her that that was true of every race, nationality, and ethnicity. So, she should never feel pressured to defend her people as being both good and bad. Who can say that’s not true of their people? That gave her pause. I don’t think anyone had ever said those words to her before.
I Have Had NO Negative Experiences
Want to know something funny? I have not seen a single migrant the entire time I lived in border towns. It’s possible I have never stayed anywhere that falls along their route. But, even inside Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, you could see the border wall and there were signs warning that encounters with illegal migrants and drug runners were possible. Still nothing!
While occupying my property, I often go outside to soak in my hot tub close to midnight. I have gotten out as late as 11:30 pm. I have never seen or feared seeing a migrant crossing the open fields my lot faces. I have also left my Moongoose bike outside with the bright-red fat tires and it has never gone missing. Nothing on my lot has ever gone missing.
In fact, hilariously, non-Conservative locals in border towns tell me they feel very safe. They leave their things outside and boast that they have never had anything go missing. One community shared that they had not had a break-in or any property crime in years. A police officer in Winterhaven even confirmed this.
But, as I said, Conservative Americans have a much different story. They share stories of hundreds of people crossing their properties. You almost want to wonder whether their fears are overstated or Mexicans target them on purpose.
Final Thoughts on Border Town Living
An interesting thing I have noticed among people who leave border towns is that, if migration was a factor, they left because of the Border Patrol agents and not the actual migrants. I’m sure there are exceptions, but those aren’t the people I’ve met.
One thought that crosses my mind during my discussions with people who are Anti-Immigration is whether they can empathize with what the Native Americans felt when Europeans invaded the country. Mexicans have not come over to plunder cities, burn civilizations, and move Americans onto reservations. Yet, Americans who don’t want them and other immigrants here seem to feel that same level of fear.
I mean, are they even invading or are they just coming home? Wyoming, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Utah, and Texas were all part of Mexico before America took them. It established a border and called the people on this side Native Americans and the people on the other side, Mexicans. One line and continued Spanish occupation south of that line created that distinction.
For the record, I do believe that something needs to be done about the border crisis. I also agree that it is easy to feel the need to fix it is less immediate when you do not live at the border. However, building the wall is a multi-billion-dollar bandaid that creates more problems than it solves. I believe this is a humanitarian crisis, not a political one.
The Actual Problem
Many of these people leave their home countries because of instability at home―often caused or worsened by American interference and the continued labor exploitation of U.S. companies abroad. Americans complain a lot about jobs going overseas, but we aren’t happy about what they pay us either in Third World countries.
I will say, even for me, one of the reasons I decided to move to America was that exploitation. I did payroll and could see the payroll records of my colleagues. They were getting $4,000 per month with fewer qualifications than me and I was getting $3.50 per hour. Why not move to America? Those are some of the scenarios America needs to resolve to slow the continued flow of people into its country.
The Double-Edged Sword
If America does completely stop the flow, though, it will pay for its decision in cash. Like all First World countries, birth rates among the existing population have slowed and healthcare has increased life expectancy rates.
This creates a situation where seniors are making up an increasingly large portion of the population. But, there are not as many children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to pay taxes and pay for their Social Security benefits. Regardless of what you think, anti-abortion policies are not going to solve that.
These immigrants coming in are keeping the population afloat. So, America needs to figure out how to get tax money out of them by helping them to become legal or by offering more work programs―especially in the wake of a labor shortage! Imagine: all these years of immigrants stealing American jobs, only for Americans not to want them anyway, eh?
And, if you’re worried that immigrants of color will replace White people, congratulations. You are racist. Never forget: America was Brown before European-Americans came here and whitewashed the population with smallpox and guns. If it ends up happening, here’s some consolation: you won’t be around to see it anyway.
13 thoughts on “What’s It Like To Live in a Border Town?”
Enlightening. I spent a little time living in Albuquerque and spent weekends visiting monuments and other historical and scenic sites. I never ventured into border towns, so I find your life experiences quite enlightening.
Thanks, Gary. Living in border towns is truly enlightening, especially when you note the differences from state to state.
This level of privacy invasion is insane. I’m glad you’re heading out but I hope you didn’t lose too much money.
Uncle Sam is always watching and waiting. It’s a wonder how anyone gets away with anything in America.
I got to keep all my materials but right now, there’s nothing to do with them. So, they’re just taking to space.
Hopefully I find somewhere else to build.
It would be so easy to give in to despair over the plight of immigrants anywhere in the world. Legal, or illegal, all they want is to secure a better and safer life for themselves and their families. In so doing they are exploited, charged exorbitant sums by traffickers, abused and treated in inhumane ways, and as criminals. We are all immigrants with very few exceptions, and those exceptions, such as the Yanomami, are slowly being obliterated by disease and commercial infiltration.
I’m sorry your plans have not worked out Alexis. Your dream place is out there somewhere. I hope you find it! 🤗
Thank you, Peter. I have a few other places in mind, all of which are in New Mexico. I’ve fallen in love with the state and really don’t want to leave it behind. 😍
You are right about the migration “problem”. It is happening all around the world. First world nation birth rates are dropping. Why NOT fill the gaps with migrants? The fact that America has such a big labor shortage problem and Social Security deficit is proof that it could take on a few more taxpayers! Why they continue to tell themselves that is not the case is unreal to me. But we all know what the problem is. The migrants aren’t the right colour for them!
Thanks again for taking the time to read and leave me a comment. I always look forward to hearing from you. ☺️
I’m sorry to hear about you leaving but I see it as being the best action for your overall well-being. This was by far the best piece of writing from you thus far and it should be published in something which could be read by more people than just here on WP!!
Thank you! After that weekend where I had to riot, they sent me shady paperwork. So, I involved my parents. We decided that living somewhere that I have to cause a scene to address blatant disrespect and constantly have to worry about them trying to undermine me is just not worth it.
I’m glad you enjoyed the article. I really wanted to publish it before leaving, while my thoughts on living here were still fresh. I hope it paints a full picture of what immigration is like down here and how people feel about migrants crossing the border.
I wish you could get it published as an op/ed in some highly visible publication.
I’m not sure that many of them like pre-published pieces. But I certainly wouldn’t say no. Let me get out of this crazy place first and then see if I can try my luck with a few publications. ☺️
I have seen pieces published that have said was previously published at such and such a place. So I’m sure it’s possible. But yes you do have priorities. And yes you do need to wear sunscreen. LOL. And I agree with you about opportunities about POCs .
I am so sorry that you have had to deal with such an A**. I hope you can find a better place with kind people.
Thank you, Lauren. I hope so too. The community itself was fine, but dealing with the developer was a nightmare. Next time, I would rather own my lot (instead of lease) and not have any HOA or covenants to deal with either.