A drop in the bucket.
Residents of this dusty hamlet are skeptical that an ongoing effort to replace 1.4 miles of chain link fencing with an imposing steel curtain — much less the the ambitious border wall Donald Trump has vowed to build — will stem the tide of illegal immigrants they find under their trailers, in their backyards or wandering through town.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is replacing the stretch of 20-year-old fencing with an 18-foot-high steel wall that extends another 6 feet underground into a bed of concrete. The project also includes elevating the roadbed that runs alongside the wall, to improve the effectiveness of vehicle-borne Border Patrol agents.
It’s a short span, but it provides a glimpse at the scope – and cost – of what may be coming along the 2,000-mile border, especially if Trump is elected in November.
“There are no other fence projects of comparable size,” said Border Patrol spokesman Doug Mosier.
Sunland Park is like many other small communities abutting the border fence that sporadically stretches 702 miles through parts of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. It sits at the western base of Mount Cristo Rey, with the iconic statue of the crucified Christ at its summit, 10 miles northwest of El Paso. One long-time resident estimates that of the 15,000 or so residents, a third are in the U.S. illegally.
Across the border lies Anapra, a violent suburb of Ciudad Juarez. And while officials say crossings into Sunland Park have decreased while the fence project is under way, they still occur fairly regularly, officials said.
“Despite significant decreases in illegal traffic, this area continues to be exploited by alien and narcotics smugglers due to the inadequate infrastructure in the area that lends an advantage to the smugglers,” Border Patrol Agent Jose Romero told FoxNews.com.
Jesus and Jessica Castro live in a double-wide mobile home a quarter mile from the fence. They believe even the fortified fence will be more of a hindrance than a deterrent to illegal cross-border movement.
“We see them running through the village confused, not knowing where they are or where to go,” Jessica Castro said as she watched their young daughter play in the dirt yard while her husband waxed their car. “The fence really doesn’t make a difference.”
Armando Martinez said he has encountered illegal immigrants on his fenced-in property several times.
“I’ve had them try to hide under my trailer when Border Patrol is looking for them, but my five small dogs start barking and scare them off,” Martinez told FoxNews.com. “I’ve also had a young man of around 20 saying he was from Mexico City hide behind my truck once.”