17 photos that show what life is like on the US-Mexico border

Pensioner Pedro, 72, is seen at his house near a section of the fence separating Mexico and the United States, on the outskirts of Tijuana, Mexico.

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Pensioner Pedro, 72, is seen at his house near a section of the fence separating Mexico and the United States, on the outskirts of Tijuana, Mexico.
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Edgard Garrido/Reuters

A year after the election, the Trump administration has yet to persuade Congress (or Mexico) to pay for an estimated$21.6 billion wall along the United States-Mexico border. Though the wall was Trump’s central campaign promise, his nominee to head the Department of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, told a US Senate committee on Wednesday there is no need to build it.

Last month, the Customs and Border Protection unveiled eight prototypes for the barrier, after House Republicans asked for $10 billion to fund its construction, a proposal that is unlikely to clear the Senate.

Congress did, however, agree to a budget bill in late April that will fund $146 million in upgrades to the existing steel border fencing, which was first installed in the mid-1990s.

For some, the border is not just a divider between the US and Mexico. It’s home.

Reuters visited people in Tijuana, Mexico, who live in a variety of home types, from a small treehouse to a mansion with views of California and the Pacific Ocean, on the border.

Their stories are below.


Steel fencing spans about 654 miles of the 1,933-mile US-Mexico border. Other areas have a “virtual fence,” featuring scanners, guards, and drones.

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Border fence between San Diego’s border patrol offices in California (left) and Tijuana, Mexico (right).
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Wikipedia Commons

Carlos Torres, an architect, has lived in a mansion on the Tijuana side for three decades. The fence begins at the end of his garden. He tells Reuters he named his mansion the “First House in Northwest Mexico.”

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Edgard Garrido/Reuters

Torres’ garden is littered with border paraphernalia, including a signpost with arrows that point toward cities in California and Mexico.

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Edgard Garrido/Reuters

Torres doubts Trump’s proposed wall will keep undocumented immigrants from crossing the border. “Walls won’t halt immigration,” he tells Reuters. “Trump doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Here at this fence, people keep crossing every week.”

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Edgard Garrido/Reuters

Pensioner Pedro, 72, holds a similar view.

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Edgard Garrido/Reuters

“Neither Trump nor the wall is going to stop anyone, maybe just for a moment,” he tells Reuters.

Pensioner Pedro, 72, is seen at his house near a section of the fence separating Mexico and the United States, on the outskirts of Tijuana, Mexico.

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Edgard Garrido/Reuters

Pedro lives with his dog Orejona next to the fence.

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Edgard Garrido/Reuters

Joaquin, a Guatemalan chef who prefers to not disclose his last name, lives in a more modest home: a tree house he built himself.

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Edgard Garrido/Reuters

Joaquin tells Reuters he was deported from the US a few years ago with little cash. “I’ve tried to cross so many times that the [US] border guards even got to know me, but I never made it back,” says Joaquin, who makes money by collecting trash in Tijuana that he sells to a local recycling plant.

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Edgard Garrido/Reuters

Carlos, a 27-year-old Mexican man who lives in a small shack near a double fence in Tijuana, was also deported from the US. Here, he is heating up tortillas that he will sell.

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Edgard Garrido/Reuters

Moses and Sara, a carpenter and dental assistant who also prefer to remain anonymous, live in a small house near a portion of the fence that divides Mexico and the US.

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Edgard Garrido/Reuters

“Trump is a good actor, a racist and is ignorant of God and people,” Moses said.

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Edgard Garrido/Reuters

The couple uses the border fence to dry their clothes.

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Edgard Garrido/Reuters

To dispose of waste, another family who lives near the fence burns their trash:

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Edgard Garrido/Reuters

Mexican carpenter Porfirio lives with his family on the outskirts of Tijuana. Here he is cutting his son’s hair outside their home.

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Edgard Garrido/Reuters

The fence, separating Chula Vista, California and Tijuana, stops at the Pacific Ocean. The man in the photo below fishes on Mexico’s side.

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Edgard Garrido/Reuters

If the Trump administration’s immigration plan follows through, the fencing near all of these homes may soon become an even taller wall.

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A girl runs outside her home near a section of the fence separating Mexico and the United States, on the outskirts of Tijuana, Mexico.
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Edgard Garrido/Reuters

Photography by Edgard Garrido. Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz.