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With the new year, presidential election coverage has officially hit overdrive. Not surprisingly, one of the hot-button issues is undocumented immigration. In a move that is sure to make Donald Trump’s eyes spin like pinwheels, the Associated Press reports that in Texas, which shares 1,254 miles of border with Mexico, only about 100 miles of that stretch is actually fenced.

Republican presidential candidates insist they’ll finish it. But completing the Texas part of the wall would be a daunting task thanks to the border’s sheer length, the fact that it sits in the center of the snaking Rio Grande and because treaties with Mexico prevent either country from constructing within the river’s flood plain. And, unlike in other southwestern states, most borderland in Texas is privately owned.

Finishing an entire border wall would be expensive. According to a 2009 Government Accountability Office report, pedestrian fencing, meant to keep out smugglers and migrants crossing on foot, has run anywhere from $400,000 to $15.1 million per mile, averaging $3.9 million. More recent construction has been even more expensive, with segments constructed in 2008 costing $6.5 million per mile. At that rate, the wall would cost nearly $10 billion to complete just for materials; challenging geography could push the cost much higher.

Officials overseeing the wall’s construction faced a legal and logistical nightmare from the start, according to emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and litigation by Denise Gilman, a University of Texas law professor. 

Meanwhile, Trump is out with his first television ad, which references his plan to build a wall along the border that the Mexicans will pay for. As the narrator talks about the idea, in Politfact’s words: “Video footage shows dozens of people streaming across the border, as if they were ants fleeing an anthill.” But that’s not the U.S.-Mexico border on the screen, Politifact found. It’s Morocco. Politifact gave Trump’s ad a Pants on Fire, its harshest rating.

San Diego’s border with Mexico, of course, is pretty fenced in already — though you should be wary of any claims of triple-fencing. And politicians here don’t want any more walls.

Trippy

You know you’ve made it when NatGeo dubs Tijuana one of its “must-see places” for 2016 alongside Winnipeg and the Seychelles.

[J]ust as San Diego has upped its cosmopolitan bona fides, Tijuana, with almost as big a population, is turning over a new leaf. Drugs still flow north, but cartel violence has subsided and tourism is on the rise. San Diego has noticed: The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego exhibits such south-of-the-border painters as Alvaro Blancarte and sells out two field trips a year to Tijuana’s art studios and galleries. The New York Times has feted Tijuanero chef Javier Plascencia’s “Baja-Med” menu at Misión 19. In July, Plascencia opened Bracero Cocina de Raiz in San Diego’s Little Italy.

“Crossing the border completely changes your mind-set,” says Plascencia, who traverses this new frontier several times weekly to oversee his kitchens. “It’s such a privilege that we can live in these two cultures at once.”

A quick note to the author: We prefer the demonym Tijuanense.

Border Lines

Move over Springfield, things are about to get real in Mexifornia, the fictional location of new Fox comedy “Bordertown.” “We crack jokes, but for the sake of exploring a topic,” Lalo Alcaraz, writer for the animated show, says in a promotional video for the show. The topic is border life, the American dream and the undocumented experience, all aided by a “deportation cannon.”

“For the first time, we have a show that will appeal, in cartoon form, to Mexican immigrants, Mexican-Americans and Latinos overall,” Alcaraz says. The La Cucaracha cartoonist was quick to defend the show’s network last Sunday, a couple of hours before the series premiere.

[fold-tweet url=”https://twitter.com/laloalcaraz/status/683829612514643968″]

Consulting producer Gustavo Arellano of ¡Ask a Mexican! fame, says in the video the series represents a watershed moment as far as pop culture cred goes.

“[In] Hollywood, to this day, Latinos—but especially Mexicans—we’re invisible,” he says, “or if we are on camera, we’re always playing these stock characters.”

Why the recent pop interest in the border? The New York Times puts it succinctly:

Border talk is rarely just about the border itself. In both politics and popular culture, the border is a proxy for thinking about the role of Mexico in American life and for grappling with the ways Mexican immigrant culture and the American mainstream influence each other. It is both a scapegoat and a mirror: a place to project fears and anxieties about a changing nation, and a reflection of the identity-straddling, language-juggling multicultural nation that is already here.

Mysterious Fire

A suspicious fire erupted at the U.S. Consulate General compound in Tijuana on Friday, destroying four vehicles and damaging another, Sandra Dibble reports. The incident drew firefighters to the scene near the Otay Mesa border crossing, as well as Mexican soldiers. Preeti Shah, the consulate’s public affairs officer, said authorities are “treating it as a crime scene.”

Give Cleats a Chance

Few debates can cause more rancor in a Mexican household than that of el América vs. Chivas. For decades, fans of the two soccer titans have gone head-to-head in celebrating epic wins and even rowdier loses. As with little Emily, parents often indoctrinate their kin at an early age.

This week, Club America gained another fan, Yoko Ono, who, acting as a representative of the Non Violence Project, handed the team the organization’s 2016 Peace Award for “its commitment and work in the promotion of a culture of peace and nonviolence in the world through their example and social programs.”

El Universal has more. (Link in Spanish)

The Demise of the Arellano Félix Organization and the Rise of El Chapo

The Atlantic has a big story on how U.S. authorities took down the Arellano Félix Organization and its interesting aftermath. The drug cartel, based in Tijuana, rivaled El Chapo and when federal agents took it apart, it allowed for the current kingpin’s ascent to even larger heights. And it turns out few of the AFO’s big leaders got hefty sentences. The piece had lots of good nuggets, including many drug enforcement officials wondering if it was all worth it and some strange encounters, like this one:

(California Department of Justice Special Agent Steve) Duncan even runs into some of the unpunished men in his own neighborhood. He lives near San Diego’s new central library, a landmark with a soaring steel dome. A few years ago, during the final stages of construction, he would pass by the building and see a man nicknamed “Roach”—a former AFO enforcer—wearing an orange vest and lounging in the shade, on his lunch break from helping to build the library. Duncan had gathered information implicating Roach in three murders and four attempted murders, none of which he was ever prosecuted for.

Binational Bash

A special celebration in honor of El Día de Reyes (Epiphany) was celebrated on both sides of the Tijuana/San Diego border over the weekend, Frontera reports (link in Spanish). The party was staged by nonprofit Border Angels and crossborder church El Farol. Friends and family members separated by the border caught up though the rusty fence, while Border Patrol agents surprised those on the Friendship Park side with a traditional rosca, the daily says. The candied-fruit-topped pastry is synonymous with the holiday. To keep the party going, whomever gets a slice containing a little plastic Baby Jesus has to throw a feast on Candlemas Day (Feb. 2).

No chipped teeth due to the pesky monito were reported on either side of the border.

Enrique Limón

Born in San Diego and raised in Tijuana, Enrique Limón is obsessed with all things border-related. His great grandfather, Hernando Limón Hernández—a...

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