While thousands illegally immigrate to the country through our border, millions do it legally every year through Ports of Entry.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents say 35 million people cross the Mexican border to El Paso every year. Law enforcement with the Office of Field Operations say for every 12 people entering the United States legally 1 enters through El Paso.
Ciudad Juarez is the neighboring Mexican city where thousands commute into America daily for work, school, shopping or social events.
People walking out of the tunnel from Mexico
Tens of thousands of people walk into El Paso daily.
"Vengo y trabajo aqui y es mucho mejor gastarme el dinero alla donde vive mi familia porque me rendiria mas el dinero, verdad,” dijo Sarai Estrada. Translation: "I come and work here and I spend my money there [Juarez] where my family lives because it goes a longer way there," said Sarai Estrada, lives in Ciudad Juarez, works in El Paso.
Sarai Estrada was born in El Paso, but lives in Mexico with her family. Her daily commute is long.
“Osea entro a las 10 de la manana y salgo a las 7:30 de mi casa. Tengo que agarrar dos caminones. Este aproximadamente el primero que agarro dura como 15 minutos, el Segundo que agarro dura como 45 minutos llego aqui como a las 8:45am. Entonce a veces hay fila, a veces no hay nada de fila,” dijo Sarai Estrada. Translation: I come in at 10 in the morning but leave my house at 7:30. I have to grab two different buses. The first one is usually 15 minutes, the second is about 45. I get here at around 8:45. Sometimes there’s a long line when I get here other times there’s no one," said Sarai Estrada.
She’s not alone. Thousands endure a similar, difficult commute.
"Tengo una hermana que ella esta crusando a diario ella es psicologa viene para aca, y viene a ver a las personas aqui en El Paso,” dijo Edmundo Estrada.Translation: "I have a sister that crosses the border daily. She’s a psychologist and comes here to see patients in El Paso," said Edmundo Estrada, El Paso resident.
A sea of people flow in on foot and behind the wheel.
“Y hay veces que duran mucho en la linea pero aun asi este van y vienen como si estuvieran viviendo aqui, dijo Edmundo Estrada,” dijo Edmundo Estrada. Translation:There are times they’re in line for a very long time but even then they still come and go as if they were living here," said Edmundo Estrada.
The El Paso Port of Entry officers process more than 32,000 vehicles a day.
“There’s a B1B2 visa, which we call it a commuter visa here. But, that one entitles you to come and visit. Come and shop. You can even come and attend business meetings. As long as you’re not coming into the US to live,” said Ruben Jauregui, El Paso Office of Field Operations.
At these passageways, immigrants must pass through three layers of enforcement, beginning with an ID scanner system.
Jauregui said: “This really expedites our process, it helps with our security. It helps us identify people immediately.”
Next, officers question the visitors.
Finally, much like an airport, officers do random searches and target the suspicious.
Field operations representatives say this is in an effort to keep narcotics, weapons, and trafficking away from the border.
El Pasoans say it’s a city of hope filled with hardworking people from both sides of the 18 foot wall.
“Ellos vienen a buscar un futuro mejor verdad y a veces no se puede. No se puede por que pues, para crucar para aca necesitas papeles. Entonces es triste saber la manera en que ellos por buscar un mejor future ariesgan a sus ninos, a pasar hambres, a pasar frios porque ahorita pues duermen en el suelo,” dijo Sarai Estrada." Translation: They come here to look for a better future and sometimes that doesn’t happen. It’s not possible because well you need papers to cross into this country. So it’s sad to know the way they risk their children and starve themselves to look for a better future because right now they’re sleeping on the floor," said
They say not all people who journey from Central and Southern America to the U.S. come to do harm. NAT OF PEOPLE WALKING. They travel here to work and to build a better life. For which many are eternally grateful.