The Morning Report
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If you’ve visited Friendship Park in the southwesternmost corner of San Diego County (and the contiguous United States, for that matter), you’ve probably seen the way the tall posts of the U.S.-Mexico border fence cut across the beach and into the water, where they seem to disappear into the ocean.
My story on Friendship Park today examined what the Border Patrol is doing to increase access to the section of the border fence just inland from the beach, as it tries to ramp up security there. The popular cross-border meeting spot has become largely inaccessible since the Border Patrol built a second fence. But in the comments section of my story, reader Ryan Bray wondered:
Can’t they still meet on the beach, a hundred yards or so from there?
Last time I was sucking down oysters in Las Playas (Tijuana), about a year ago, I saw families sitting along the fence meeting people on the US side right there on the beach. There was a border patrol vehicle sitting on the hill on the US side watching them but it seemed a lot better than this park’s description.
The section of the fence that runs across the beach — called the surf fence — was built as a deterrent for illegal crossers trying to swim across the border. When the Border Patrol closed off access to Friendship Park two years ago, it also prohibited people on the U.S. side from approaching the surf fence. Its pylons are spaced wide enough for slighter people to slip through.
On frequent occasion, those gaps have allowed someone on the Tijuana side to sneak across the beach to a loved one on the U.S. side for a hug or a peck on the cheek before scampering back into Mexico.
Advocates have been successful in getting the Border Patrol to grant more access to the section of the fence just inland from the beach — the section my story focused on — but not to the section that cuts across the sand, where the agency plans to rebuild the tall pylons that have been battered by waves over the years.
Border Patrol agent Kelly Good said the agency was still concerned about people trying to enter the United States illegally there, or passing illegal contraband through the gaps.
Jill Holslin, a member of the Friends of Friendship Park, said the group recognized that the area has become a special concern for the Border Patrol as more people have attempted to enter San Diego by sea. But in the long term, she said she believed the group would be able to negotiate access to the fence along the beach because the Border Patrol isn’t planning a second layer fence similar to the one it’s built further inland.
In the meantime, people will continue to slip through the fence under the watchful eye of Border Patrol agents stationed nearby, like the young lady pictured above who squeezed through to briefly hug her boyfriend when Sam Hodgson and I reported a story there in 2009.