Crossing the Border, Wish You Were Here

The new fence separating Nogales, Ariz., from Mexico doesn’t look pretty. But, with an $11.6 million price tag, it doesn’t have to look pretty, it just needs to get the job done.

Built last summer, the 2.8-mile border fence is made of six-inch square metal tubes and filled with concrete. Rebar runs down the middle of it so no one can slice through and squeeze into America. The daunting fence measures in at heights between 23 and 30 feet, and for extra measure, the fine fence is topped with the proverbial cherry – a 5-foot high, south-facing sheet of metal to basically quell any hope of climbing over into a better life.

It sends a very clear message to anyone trying to cross from Mexico to America without going through the proper channels: “We don’t want you.”

And now, thanks to Gray Line Tours, a tour operator based in Tucson, Ariz., you too can see this less than attractive fence—and more. Passengers here won’t be pulling up to famous museums, or touring culinary hot spots. Instead, everyone on board this Gray Line bus are being taken somewhere that places them square in the present—and square in the middle of one of the hottest political debates going on right now: the world of immigration.

Border Crisis: Fact or Fiction is a bi-weekly tour offering from the company and is designed to bring attention to the debate over border control. It delves into the world of immigration problems facing border towns up and down the region. Dubbed “apolitical,” the tour also highlights immigration issues facing Mexicans who want to cross the border, including learning about the fence. Each year, hundreds of Mexican immigrants attempt to enter into the American desert illegally. And, each year, many of them don’t make it. They either are caught at the border or die en route.

For an entire day, tour participants are driven in a bus through border towns in the Arizona desert, getting an up-close look at the fence, along with an eye-opening tour of what really goes on at the border between America and Mexico—the good, the bad and the ugly.

The tour is designed to show participants what life is like at the border. Those who take this tour learn about both sides of the debate, from those ranchers whose land is not an official border crossing but which offers an easier way to America, and from advocates who want immigrants to be able to cross into the States with less conflict.

The tour includes a stop at a border fence; a pedestrian bridge that connects the two countries; a working ranch that sits on the border; a chance to observe Customs and Border Protection Agents; a visit to a 65-gallon plastic tank of water installed courtesy of Humane Borders, to give desert-bound immigrants a fighting chance to make it to the border, even in the summer heat; and a brief walk through the desert— an area that claims the lives of hundreds of illegal immigrants each year. 

The daylong tour costs $89 per person, and includes lunch.

Getting There

If you drive, expect the trip to take about 7 hours and cost about $60 in gas to traverse the 420 or so miles. To fly, the nearest airport is in Tucson, and round-trip flights are in the $170 range.