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Nogales Citizens Given a Forum

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In recent years, the U.S-Mexican border has become an increasingly volatile area. Attracting media coverage from major news networks, drug cartels seem to be engaged in an all-out war, shooting it out with law enforcement from both the U.S and Mexico on a seemingly daily basis at times. Death tolls and body counts show us a harsh reality of people risking their lives as they journey on foot, through the hot and unforgiving deserts of the Southwest, to America, in search of better jobs or wages. However, citizens of Nogales, Ariz. paint a much different picture of their own city and the border. One that is far different from the  sensational images being shown to people all over the country on their nightly news programs.

Father NeeleySpeaking with many different citizens of Nogales and the border area, it was refreshing to hear how safe they said their city was.

Father Peter Neeley, a Jesuit Priest working for the Kino Border Initiative, said there is so much law enforcement in Nogales, between border patrol, local police, and federal agencies that the ratio works out to one law enforcement agent for every three citizens in Nogales.

Working with the Kino Border Initiative Father Neeley, and others like him, provide assistance to help deported immigrants, migrants and refugees on the Mexican side of the border.

The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) provides basic humanitarian care and education. The KBI also works with international organizations and religious groups to help transform local, regional and national policies. Neeley said that congressmen are not willing to vote against increasing amounts of money being spent at our borders in the name of national security.

He states that the money could be put to more efficient use if it was actually utilized at the legal border crossings to help keep the heavy traffic moving. Trips that once took five minutes to cross the border now take 25 minutes.  He says that the money is instead being spent to catch people trying to cross illegally, on foot, in the middle of the desert. Neeley says that according to congressmen, the increased security measures are to protect the U.S against terrorist threats. But Neeley is not satisfied with this explanation. He says the issue is being pushed away from one of migration to one of a justification to defend against terrorism. "So far there has been no public proof that terrorism is an issue for Nogales, Ariz.," Neeley said. The increased security and worsening economy have been major deterrents for many people who once desired to cross the border on a daily or weekly basis. This is bad for the economies of both countries as trade and tourism slows and small businesses feel the sting of these repercussions.

Small business owners like Connie Son, the owner of her family business "Casa Sonia Fashion," explained that there are fewer people coming to Nogales to shop in stores like her own. She is becoming more worried as the crowds at markets and local shops have thinned out in the past few years. Parking spots that used to be taken, are now noticeably left open on Sunday afternoons. There are fewer people shopping for holidays than just a few years ago as well. Not only that, but she has also lost about half of her wholesale customers. She blames the economy and heightened security at the border.

Other people living in the area, like 51-year-old Mary Darling, said the same about Nogales'Mary Darling safety and security.

According to Darling, the increased amount of security and militarization of the border has overcompensated a bit for the wild and volatile scene that many news networks are reporting exists. In many cases, the increased security has made it tougher for everyday citizens to be able to travel back and forth for daily shopping, travel or trade.

She is very pleased with the city and county levels of government for making Nogales safer, but says the increased security and questioning of people at legal border crossings (and checkpoints) can discourage many people from making more trips across the border.

Darling stressed that it is extremely important that the media begin to do a better job in portraying places like Nogales in a more accurate fashion. She says that traveling over the border to Mexico for a day of shopping or dining is hardly a "death defying act."

"There are no bullets flying over my head when I take my dogs out for a walk," she said, "I never hesitate to go out in my yard or walk my dogs in the early evening, and that's something more people should know."

In these interviews, everyday citizens of Nogales and the border area were given a forum to express their view point of the situation, how it is playing out in their eyes and possible solutions. They were given the opportunity to say what they felt, and address their growing concerns about their city and border crossings. The consensus seemed to be the same no matter who spoke - that Nogales was a safe place to be - but a bit of overcompensation in the form of border security has put them into a situation they never wanted to be a part of.

They are frustrated with the violent and extreme picture being associated with all U.S - Mexican border areas. They believe this picture is not helping anyone as it discourages people from coming to areas like Nogales for trade, tourism and other forms of consumerism. They need traveling across the border to be safe, but also efficient and smart enough to handle the heavy flow of daily traffic. This will ensure an already delicate and tough economic situation won't become any tougher.


Part 1 - Father Neeley and KBI

Part 2 - Small business takes a Hit

Part 3 - Nogales Citizens concerned of Image

Written by Jeff Kessler You are reading Nogales Citizens Given a Forum articles

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