Letter From Calexico Report From California's Berlin

Calexico is a North American town of roughly 16,000 situated directly on the Mexican border, 120 miles southeast of San Diego, in the warm and sunny Imperial Valley, where agriculture will always be the most abundant business; but Calexico differs from other towns along that extended border in being the suburb of a Mexican city, Mexicali, with its population of nearly a million. At least 95 percent of the Calexico population has Mexican ancestry, and most everyone has relatives south of the border. To me, a recent resident of Berlin, it generated hints of what Berlin might have been like before the Wall.

Between the two countries runs only a single fence, without any surrounding no-man's-land. On the Calexico side roams the U.S. Border Patrol, whose job it is to arrest illegal Mexican immigrants and, for punishment, simply return them to the other side. However, the border is porous. On the Calexico side is a golf course on which you can see Mexicali kids playing soccer, because the golf course offers the best field close to their home. No doubt they step back through the "border" fence to get home to sleep.

Because minimum wages in California are considerably higher than those in Mexico, farm workers scale a fence that, even in Calexico itself, has holes that aren't repaired; and once in the U.S., they have little trouble finding jobs in a country that needs cheap labor and rarely asks to see anyone's...

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