When The Border Is Just Next Door, Crossing It Is A Fact Of (Daily) Life The two Nogaleses — one in Arizona, the other in Mexico — are in separate countries, but to the people who live there, they feel like one place: a border city.

When The Border Is Just Next Door, Crossing It Is A Fact Of (Daily) Life

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Let's hear the way President Trump's emerging border policy looks from the U.S.-Mexico border. On this day when a Senate committee in Washington considers plans for more border walls, we visit Nogales, Ariz., and its sister city Nogales, Mexico. NPR's Melissa Block is reporting the series Our Land.

MELISSA BLOCK, BYLINE: These twinned border cities are known as ambos Nogales or both Nogales. And crossing over is no big thing - just walk through a turnstile into Mexico to get a root canal, maybe a haircut or a manicure. Delia Garza has crossed the border on her day off for a color change.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Speaking Spanish).

BLOCK: Red or pink or springly colors?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Speaking Spanish).

BLOCK: OK. Yeah. It's spring, right?

That manicure costs a fraction of what it would cost just steps away in the other Nogales in Arizona. Each year, more than 3 million people cross through here by foot. And today, just a little ways down the road, we're waiting for a big group that will be crossing by hoof.

JUAN MANUEL FLEISCHER: It's crazy what goes on here.


FLEISCHER: I got to take this.

BLOCK: Meet Juan Manuel Fleischer.


BLOCK: Cattle broker.

FLEISCHER: (Speaking Spanish).

BLOCK: Fleischer's waiting for the latest herd of cattle he bought in Mexico to cross into the U.S.

FLEISCHER: A thousand fifteen hundred head come in here every day, and they leave every day.

BLOCK: They come through that border wall we hear so much about. The wall looms high on the hill above us - 20 to 30-feet tall. It's made of rusted steel tubes reinforced with concrete with steel plates on top, and there's a gate up there that's for the cattle. Arizona has just three of these cattle ports along its entire border. Juan Fleischer was born on this side of the wall.

FLEISCHER: Right here.

BLOCK: In Nogales, Arizona. His wife - born in Mexico.

FLEISCHER: We're all intertwined here on the border.

BLOCK: And Fleischer sees his own identity as an easy blend.

FLEISCHER: I'm Latin. I'm white. Yeah, no - I'm a Mexican-American from the border.

BLOCK: Fleischer's family lived here when all this land was part of Mexico, in fact even earlier when the United States didn't even exist. Growing up in the '60s and '70s, he remembers an open border.

FLEISCHER: Oh, yeah. You could cross with nothing before. People knew each other. Mexican people could come back and forth.

BLOCK: With nothing?

FLEISCHER: You know, you - customs - you say, hey, I'm going to just go get some stuff at the grocery store, you know, what - it was different times.

BLOCK: Over time, the Nogales wall has evolved and grown from a simple, barbed-wire fence to this latest version put up in 2011. Fleischer says it's stupid to think that wall stops drug traffic.

FLEISCHER: You'll see people just hop over that fence with loads of dope on their backs and risk the cross, you know?

BLOCK: Right there?

FLEISCHER: Oh, yeah. It happens a lot. These are agile kids. I couldn't do it. You know? It'd scare the hell out of me to get up there. (Laughter) So...

BLOCK: It's time for the legal crossing of cattle, the steel border gate has been opened. Mexican cattle with M branded on their right hip, careen down the dusty hill and are funneled into pens on the U.S. side. Juan Fleischer will be shipping his to California and Texas.

FLEISCHER: I guess what I would tell people that aren't from the borders is we aren't in any risk - OK? - of being invaded by drug dealers or terrorists or illegal aliens. The fact that they can cross through here is just a fact, you know?

BLOCK: What is it that you love about where you're from?

FLEISCHER: I love the fact that I can live on both sides of the border and be OK with that. I think it's a fair deal, you know? And I think we're fortunate as a country to have a country next to us that is our friend. It could be a lot worse.

BLOCK: Melissa Block, NPR News, Nogales, Ariz.

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