Thursday, December 31, 2009

No signs of letup in entrant deaths

December 27, 2009
Arizona Daily Star
By Brady McCombs

The final fiscal year 2009 tally of border deaths confirms a lethal trend: illegal border crossers face a deadlier trek than ever across Arizona's desert.

The 241,600 apprehensions made in the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector marked a 10-year low, Border Patrol figures show. These figures, along with declining remittances from the U.S. to Mexico and anecdotal reports that the economic recession has slowed illegal immigration, point to a dramatic slowdown in illegal border crossings.

Yet the 213 bodies of suspected illegal border crossers found in the Tucson Sector are the third-most ever, behind 230 in 2005 and 223 in 2007, the Arizona Daily Star's border-death database shows. That means the risk of dying is more than twice as high today compared with five years ago and nearly 30 times greater than in 1998.
There were 88 known deaths per 100,000 apprehensions in the area covered in the U.S. Border Patrol's Tucson Sector in fiscal year 2009, which ended on Sept. 30, the Star's database indicates. That's up from 39 known deaths per 100,000 apprehensions in 2004 and three per 100,000 apprehensions in 1998.

The increased risk of death coincides with the unprecedented buildup of agents, fences, roads and technology along the U.S.-Mexico border, casting doubt on a mantra often used by the Border Patrol that a "secure border is a safe border."

There are now 3,300 agents, more than 200 miles of fences and vehicle barriers, and 40 agents assigned to the agency's search, rescue and trauma team, Borstar, yet illegal immigrants are still dying while trying to cross the Border Patrol's 262-mile-long Tucson Sector.

Border-county law enforcement, Mexican Consulate officials, Tohono O'odham tribal officials and humanitarian groups say the increase in fencing, technology and agents has caused illegal border crossers to walk longer distances in more treacherous terrain, increasing the likelihood that people will get hurt or fatigued and left behind to die.

The Border Patrol disagrees that it's pushing illegal immigrants into more hazardous terrain and points to its rescue efforts as evidence that its presence prevents deaths rather than causes them. Agents in the Tucson Sector rescued 586 people in fiscal year 2009, Border Patrol figures show, up from 443 the previous year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Border deaths at four-year high

Green Valley News
December 2, 2009
By Jaime Richardson

Migrant deaths in the Tucson Sector are the highest in four years, and a border activist expects that number to grow next year.

The Border Patrol reported that 208 bodies of suspected illegal immigrants were discovered in the sector in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30; 171 deaths were reported a year earlier. The Tucson Sector covers all of the Arizona border with Mexico except Yuma.

A spokesman for the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector said it took two months to release the official tally because the agency wanted to be sure it was accurate. A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, which oversees the Border Patrol, said it’s routine for numbers to be released several months after the end of the fiscal year because of the large amount of data that must be compiled.

However, local Border Patrol authorities routinely supply Tucson Sector monthly numbers a day or two after the end of the month.

The high number of bodies — 37 more than last year — was a surprise to the founder of the Coalicion de Derechos Humanos, a Tucson human rights organization that keeps its own count of deaths in the desert.

Derechos Humanos counted 206 deaths in fiscal year 2009, compiling data from medical examiner reports from Pima, Cochise and Yuma counties. Their number is usually higher than the Border Patrol because it includes the entire state.

Isabel Garcia, head of Derechos Humanos, said the Border Patrol’s number could mean the agency is becoming more accurate in its reporting.

“Either way, numbers this high are an abomination,” she said.

The number was unexpected because all sides agree that fewer illegal immigrants are crossing the border because of the poor economy in the United States.

“All the reports have shown that crossings have dramatically decreased, yet the deaths go against that,” Garcia said. “This tells you we were right all along. An increase of military and police-natured responses lead to more deaths. Even though less people are crossing, more people are dying.”

The Border Patrol, however, says they are increasingly patrolling more remote parts of the desert and therefore are discovering bones that may have been there for years. A body is included in the count the year it is discovered.

Garcia expects to see the number go up.

“Economically, we’ve not seen the worst of it yet,” she said. “The impact of NAFTA trade policies on agriculture in Mexico will propel more people to try to come up.”

BORDER DEATHS, by fiscal year:

2009: 208

2008: 171

2007: 202


2005: 216

Friday, December 18, 2009

Feds Trying to Take More Land Along Border Wall

KRGV Channel 5
December 17, 2009

CAMERON COUNTY - Dr. Eloisa Tamez says the federal government is trying once again to take her land. Earlier this month, she received a letter from the Department of Homeland Security asking for permission to access her property to do "site surveys." Tamez owns land along the border wall just west of the Brownsville city limits.

The letter asks her to grant permission for "entry" during the next year. The land in question is south of the actual border wall and south of the levy. "They took my land. They built the wall. Now, they want more land. I need an explanation. What do they need that land for," she asked.

Tamez says she will not sign the letter.

Tamez has been a vocal opponent of the wall. She's already involved in federal lawsuit over the border wall. She wants a jury to decide how much she should be compensated for the initial land that was taken. Tamez says that case is expected to go trial next spring.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

La Posada at border fence

San Diego Union-Tribune
December 14, 2009
by J Harry Jones

IMPERIAL BEACH — Faith groups from the United States and Mexico gathered yesterday afternoon at Border Field State Park in what was both a religious celebration and a political statement.

The 16th annual La Posada Sin Fronteras was a re-enactment of the biblical story of Mary and Joseph, who were forced to seek shelter after the birth of Christ and were eventually welcomed into a stranger’s home. Participants from both countries compared the biblical tale to the struggle migrants face trying to enter the United States.

One of the messages of the story, the idea of welcoming strangers — and immigrants — is under attack in our times, making the binational celebration even more significant, organizers said. Today, families on both sides of the border are separated by immigration policy and can no longer meet, even at the border fence, organizers said.

This was the first time the celebration was held since a second border fence was constructed earlier this year. The participants were not allowed to touch or exchange gifts with those who had gathered in Mexico for the celebration.

About 150 people, including many members of the media, gathered on the Mexico side of the fence, while on the U.S. side about half that number were present.

U.S. Border Patrol agents allowed 25 people at a time to go through the first fence to the Friendship Monument, which is situated to the north of the Tijuana bullfighting ring and a lighthouse. The remainder were forced to stay back behind the second fence, roughly 100 feet away.

“I want to remind you that while there are few people here, there are many watching and praying,” said Tijuana’s Roman Catholic Archbishop Rafael Romo Muñoz, speaking from Mexico. “Many are praying for friendship and solidarity between our two countries.”

Veterans of earlier celebrations remembered how people would share tacos, hold hands and exchange trinkets through the fence.

“This is a sad occasion on this beautiful winter day,” said Christian Ramirez of the American Friends Service Committee from the U.S. side. “We friends are not allowed to touch each other or exchange food and candy as in the past. This is ridiculous. This is the promise of change we heard a year ago?”

Along the outer fence, dozens of luminarias were set up and lighted at dusk. Each bag, containing a lighted candle, represented a migrant killed while trying to cross the border. Many of the dead were young, and most were identified only as “unknown male.”

One of the organizers of the first Posada Without Borders in 1993 was Roberto Martinez, the migrant activist who died earlier this year. Ramirez said Martinez is “greatly missed” and was undoubtedly looking down on all yesterday afternoon.

Those on the U.S. side had to hike through mud and then on the beach for about two miles because the main road to the friendship monument was flooded. Few seemed to mind the inconvenience.

During the gathering, Christmas carols were sung in both English and Spanish. Although Americans were not allowed to give anything to the Mexicans, at one point bundles of candy came flying over the fence from the Mexico side.

Panel to create eco-monitoring plan for border

Arizona Daily Star
December 10, 2009
by Brady McCombs

A team of scientists brought together by the Department of the Interior is in Southern Arizona this week to develop a plan assessing the effects of the government's buildup of border security.

The 16 scientists are scheduled to take a tour of the U.S.-Mexico border and meet with residents, environmentalists and public land managers before they begin work on a document they expect to be ready by April 2010.

The $40,000 project will culminate in a draft environmental monitoring strategy that will provide the Department of Homeland Security a road map to evaluate the impact of border security on wildlife and the environment.

After the document is ready, it will be up to the Department of Homeland Security to implement recommendations, said Charles van Riper III, a supervisory research ecologist for the U.S. Geological Survey. The goal is to first conduct a pilot project to assess the effects on Department of Interior land along Arizona's stretch of U.S.-Mexico border. It will likely cost upwards of $40 million, officials say.

Environmentalists say it's an important first step by the government.

"There is actually now a plan that is developing with the real players sitting down to develop it," said Matt Clark, southwest representative of Defenders of Wildlife. "It can never be soon enough, but the ball is rolling."

Despite a $2.4 billion investment to build 264 miles of fencing and 226 miles of vehicle barriers along the Southwest border in the last five years, the impact of these barriers on border security is unknown, according to a September 2009 Government Accountability Office report.

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who hosted a video conference on Monday with interested parties said there has been a shift from the previous presidential administration in regard to border security.

Under the Bush administration, the Department of Homeland Security invoked a waiver on several occasions to expedite the construction of border fences and vehicle barriers.

Use of those waivers eroded public trust in Homeland Security, said Clark and Dan Millis, borderlands campaign organizer with the Sierra Club.

"We are trying to heal a lot of the wounds from the way things have been done in the past," Millis said. "The fact that we have a dialogue is encouraging. This is a good first step."

The team of scientists includes 13 men and women from Arizona, including three from the University of Arizona.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Gringo Pass to Brownsville: Good Neighbor Board urges Obama to take new tack on Border Wall

San Antonio Current
December 2009
by Greg Harman

For a while it looked like the Border Wall was going to be a boon for Martha Gay and her Gringo Pass gas station in Lukeville, Arizona. Homeland Security’s subcontractor Kiewit was paying out $100,000 per month for Gringo Pass land to host a cement batching plant and store equipment. A water deal at 50-cents a gallon had the company owing Gay another $2 million in short order.

Then the flood came.

In the desert, water rushes fast over the hard earth like a sheet, seeking out low spots, arroyos, canyons, sinkholes. What the rainfall found was the border wall. Gay’s attorneys allege that after that water hit the wall it channeled directly into her convenience store, doing an estimated $6 million in damages. All of a sudden the wall wasn’t such a hot item at Gay’s Gringo Pass.

It may have been a freak flood in Presidio, Texas, that forced Homeland Security to finally reject miles of proposed wall construction there, but folks are still feeling jitters regarding the miles of wall constructed in the Valley across private property and through federally protected wilderness.

Nancy Brown, spokesperson for U.S. Fish and Wildlife at the South Texas Refuge Complex said wall construction has finished through the federally protected lands, but how it will affect rainfall and flooding is unknown. “From the beginning we have asked ‘What about hydrology studies?’ and to my knowledge that has never been addressed,” Brown said.

Eloisa Tamez brought a class-action lawsuit against Homeland Security through which she hopes to force the government to pay a fair price for her property. But if she harbored any illusions that a change of administration in Washington would help resolve the issue, nearly a year of non-action on immigration and border justice by Obama has disabused her for such notions.

“Obama and [Homeland Security Secretary Janet] Napolitano have done nothing but take the place of the previous administration. It’s just a new name with the same policies. We have been totally abandoned,” she said.

Now the Good Neighbor Environmental Board has come up with some ideas for Obama.

In a December 2 letter, the advisory board dedicated to matters pertaining to U.S.-Mexico borderlands environmental justice wrote that while the wall was “mandated” by Congress and had “some positive outcomes” that “the construction has caused negative impacts on natural and cultural resources. For instance, the wall has been blamed for flooding on the Mexican side of the river in cities such as Nogales, Sonoyta, and Palomas. Construction also unearthed Native American burial sites of both the Tohono O’odham and the Kymeyaay, and failed to allow room for migration wildlife.

In a series of recommendations to the President, the group urged that those elements of the REAL ID Act that had allowed former Homeland Secretary Michael Chertoff to waive dozens of other federal laws to build the wall be repealed and that future “border security infrastructure” conform to federal environmental laws under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Border Wall activist Scott Nicol of the No Border Wall Coalition said repealing the REAL ID Act section is critical.

“Much of the environmental damage that the Environmental Board wants to address would never have occurred if DHS was required to obey all of nation's laws. It is because DHS failed to act responsibly from the beginning that there is now a need for monitoring and mitigation of the severe damage that they have inflicted upon border communities and refuges,” Nichol wrote in an email to the Current. “Border walls in Texas are in clear violation of the endangered species act, and DHS never released any studies proving that the walls stuffed into the Rio Grande's flood control levees do not put communities at risk. Hopefully President Obama will reverse the Bush-era policies, and implement the Board's recommendations."

Will actually grasping the Nobel Peace Prize on Thursday convert Obama into a border-loving justice hound? We can only hope.

Tijuana River Valley Residents Say Border Fence Contributing to Flooding

KPBS San Diego
December 7, 2009
by Amy Isackson

Tijuana River Valley residents say the new border fence is blocking drainage channels. They say rain is washing dirt from the new fence project into flood channels.

The Bush Administration waived all environmental laws to build the fence. Government officials promised to mitigate erosion. However, they didn't water the seeds they planted on the berm in Smuggler's Gulch until late this fall.

Dick Tynan, a rancher in the Tijuana River Valley, spoke with us while peering out his barn door towards the new border fence in Smuggler's Gulch.

Tynan said the bare dirt is creating a major problem.

"The government just dropped the ball on that," Tanyan said. "The water just takes the shortest path and its going to take out more silt as it goes. They've got a backhoe up there now working on it."

Tynan said the drainage channel that City of San Diego emergency crews have been digging is already half full.

He also said roads in the river valley have flooded. He's moved some of his horses to higher ground and is ready to move the rest.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Feds: Plants There, Just Look Harder

Voice of San Diego
December 3, 2009
by Rob Davis

The barren, vegetation-free hillsides in Border Field State Park created by a new 3.5-mile section of the U.S.-Mexico border fence are neither barren nor vegetation-free, the federal government claims.

In a recent letter to U.S. Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's chief says the denuded hills near the Tijuana Estuary have plants growing on them.

You just can't see them, he wrote.

Because the plants being grown on the new hillsides are native species, wrote Jayson Ahern, the agency's acting chief, "the existing re-vegetated areas are currently dormant and brown ... and, thus, difficult to see from afar."

That does not accurately reflect what I've seen in the park. When I visited in mid-October, I saw a few plants growing on a single hill. Other new hills were barren, save for rows of straw bales.

It was easy to see from afar that no plants were growing. It was even easier to see up close. I stood on the hills. Plants were not growing. Federal contractors working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had sprayed a wet, pulpy seed mix -- called "hydroseed" -- on the ground, but never irrigated.

I called Clay Phillips, superintendent of Border Field State Park, to check whether plants had suddenly grown in the last month.

"Nothing magical has happened," he said. "There is a native plant seed mix (on the ground), but we've never seen any growth there."

Ahern, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection official, wrote in his letter that "moderate revegetation has actually occurred and is progressing well." He said the federal government purposely didn't water the seeds it spread on the hills so it could mimic normal climatic conditions -- dry summers, wet winters.

I asked Bruce Hanson, a restoration ecologist for Edaw, a local consulting firm, whether that was a good idea. He said it is. Unless a full-fledged irrigation system was installed, Hanson said it's better to wait for natural rainfall, which helps seeds germinate better. The salt content is lower in rain than in water sprayed from trucks, which the government is now using.

But using seeds alone is "window-dressing," Hanson said. The best way to restore degraded habitat is to use a mix of seeds and transplant already-established plants and cactus, he said.

"A lot of species" -- such as the Baja birdbush, a plant whose northern range extends only to the border -- "never come up from seed," he said. Instead, generic shrubs grow, such as purple needlegrass, which is found throughout the state.

"You end up with a different plant community than what should be there," Hanson said. "Hydroseed is not going to be representative of what was out there."

Friday, December 4, 2009

No Border Wall group backs GNEB's letter to Obama

Rio Grande Guardian
December 4, 2009

WESLACO, Dec. 4 - The No Border Wall coalition has backed recommendations about the border fence issue that were sent to President Obama by the Good Neighbor Environmental Board.

The GNEB advises the President on environmental issues that impact the border. In a letter sent to Obama on Dec. 2, the group offered 12 recommendations, including the repeal of the Real ID Act's waiver provision, compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, a review by the International Boundary Water Commission, and environmental monitoring and mitigation.

“No Border Wall agrees fully with all of these recommendations, and views their implementation as a good start towards rectifying some of the damage that border walls have done,” No Border Wall coalition spokesman Scott Nicol told the Guardian.

Here are the 12 recommendations contained in the letter:

1) Require that all border security infrastructure projects fully comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) as well as all other laws including environmental, historic, and archeological preservation laws.

2) Work with Congress to amend the REAL ID Act of 2005 to remove the provisions allowing the Secretary of Homeland Security to waive legal requirements.

3) Fully incorporate adequate environmental review, public participation, and scientific analysis into the design and implementation of all border security infrastructure projects.

4) Facilitate review by the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) of projects that may cause deflection or obstruction of the normal flow of rivers or their flood flows, ensuring continued compliance with the 1970 Boundary Treaty between the U.S. and Mexico and other international agreements.

5) Systematically monitor the entire fence and supporting infrastructure for effects resulting from its construction and develop actions to modify, redesign, or mitigate the negative outcomes realized or anticipated by the existing construction.

6) Provide sufficient annual funding via the DHS budget for monitoring, research, and mitigation of the environmental impacts of the border fence.

7) Obtain adequate local stakeholder input for all fence construction, mitigation, and maintenance as well as for associated infrastructure projects, including access roads.

8) In sensitive rural areas that are important wildlife corridors, use barriers and technology that prevent vehicular traffic, control pedestrian incursion, and allow wildlife movement.

9) Aggressively explore the use of information and remote sensing technologies that will enhance border security while reducing the physical footprint of interdiction activities along the border.

10) Ensure adequate funding to DHS/Customs and Border Protection for ongoing training for border security personnel about the local natural environment and significant natural and cultural resources.

11) Identify and implement best management practices to prevent and mitigate the erosion resulting from fence construction and associated infrastructure.

12) Charge the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study on the binational environmental effects of the border fence and associated infrastructure.

The letter is available here:

Federal border panel makes recommendations

San diego Union Tribune
December 4, 2009
by Sandra Dibble

San Diego — An independent federal advisory committee is urging the Obama administration to monitor the environmental impact of U.S. border fence and take steps to restore damaged areas.

In a letter sent yesterday, the Good Neighbor Environmental Board made 12 recommendations aimed at protecting the environment along the 1,951-mile U.S.-Mexico border as the fence is extended in several areas.

“We feel that the Obama administration is very open to hearing about environmental concerns of the border region,” said board Chairman Paul Ganster, who is also director of the Institute for Regional Studies of the Californias at San Diego State University. “We’re taking this opportunity to convey our advice on what we feel is a critical environmental issue.”

Created by federal legislation in 1992, the board is made up of 24 appointed members who serve on a voluntary basis and come from government, the private sector, nonprofit groups and academia. The board examines environmental and infrastructure issues along the border, and forwards findings to Congress and the president.

To read the letter, go to

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pictures Worth a Thousand Words...and 650 Miles Make the Rounds in AZ

Public News Service
December 3, 2009
by Doug Ramsey

PHOENIX - The border wall being built in an attempt to reduce illegal immigration is doing major ecological damage by blocking critical southern Arizona wildlife corridors, according to conservation groups. A photo exhibit demonstrating that damage is on display through Friday at Arizona State University Memorial Union, Tempe.

Krista Schlyer, a member of the International League of Conservation Photographers, made many of the photographs during a border expedition earlier this year.

"Some of the photos are of wildlife species that will be impacted by the wall, that live along the border. There will also be photos of people and the communities of people we met while we were out on this expedition."

Schlyer was surprised to see how much harm vehicle barriers do to jumping species like deer, especially in places where a previously-built barbed wire fence has been left in place.

Researcher Matt Clark with Defenders of Wildlife says the exhibit shows the effect of the border wall on species such as desert bighorn sheep, which need to migrate among mountain ranges to reproduce and maintain genetic diversity.

"Desert bighorn sheep are a species of conservation concern and have declined dramatically over the past century. We need to sustain not only populations, but the connections between populations, if they are to maintain an ability to survive in a very harsh environment."

The photo exhibit helps overcome the misconception that the Arizona-Mexico border region is a deserted wasteland, Schlyer says, when it's really an area of incredible beauty.

"I think that particular misconception has caused much of the problem in terms of the border wall, because without knowing the biological diversity and the cultural diversity of the borderlands, it's easy to not consider the impact of what we're doing down there."

The photo exhibit travels to Tucson and Bisbee later this month.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Border tunnel, with elevator, discovered

San Diego Union-Tribune
December 2, 2009
by Sandra Dibble

A cross-border tunnel equipped with an elevator and lighting and electrical systems was discovered Wednesday just west of the Otay Mesa Point of Entry, federal authorities said.

Acting on a tip received by U.S. officials, Mexican authorities found the tunnel and arrested at least 12 people inside, authorities said.

The tunnel, which did not yet have an opening on the U.S. side, was about 1,000 feet long, 860 feet of which were in the United States. It was about 90 to 100 feet deep in some areas.

No arrests have been made in the United States. Officials estimate the tunnel may have been under construction for about two years.

On Wednesday afternoon, Mexican soldiers could be seen guarding a warehouse in an industrial area located about one kilometer west of the Otay Mesa border crossing. The building, made out of blocks and painted beige, abuts the border fence.

On the U.S. side, tractor trailers can be seen driving next to the fence. The nearest building is several hundred feet away.

About 120 cross-border tunnels have been discovered and dismantled along the Southwest border. Smugglers have been digging under the border for decades to avoid detection. Officials said they have seen a spike since 9/11 when heightened enforcement along the border forced smugglers to come up with alternative ways to move contraband.

The tunnels have also become increasingly sophisticated, with elevators to lower large amounts of contraband and ventilation systems so workers can spend hours underground.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

An openness to border fence: Divider boundless as visual forum for political expression

San Diego Union-Tribune
November 30, 2009
by Leslie Berestein

In Cold War-era Berlin, artists and others who decried the wall dividing the city into east and west used its concrete expanse as a broad canvas for political and personal expression, over the years turning its gray surface into multihued graffiti art.

And in Tijuana today, those who protest U.S. immigration policies have the border fence.

In the nearly two decades since fencing began to appear on the U.S.-Mexico border between San Diego and Tijuana, the fence has become its own political canvas of sorts, with stretches of it serving as a backdrop for installations that have included thousands of wooden crosses, painted coffins, paintings of skulls and of doors that go nowhere, save for the desert.

The paintings and installations, the most recent a collection of 5,100 wooden crosses hung from the fence at Playas de Tijuana last month, are memorials to those who have died in attempts to traverse the border illegally, most of them through rough terrain to the east.

The fence also has acted as a billboard for political candidates, as a structure on which to affix screened images for a city art exhibit a few years ago, as a place for taggers’ graffiti and for the quieter musings of would-be migrants who have scratched their names and where they came from onto the rusty metal.

Unlike on the Berlin Wall, where much of the art was spontaneous and anonymous, most of the protest art on the border fence has been planned and orchestrated by border activists and local artists. To the east in Nogales, Ariz., an artists’ collective has been responsible for many of the pieces there, including metal sculptures and murals affixed to the fence. Still, those who have studied the phenomenon of political boundaries and art say there are universal similarities in what prompts the expression.

“Borders tend not to be joyous places,” said Justinian Jampol, a historian and museum director in Los Angeles who has studied the Berlin Wall and the art it inspired. “Borders tend to be where people are separated. They tend to be points of contention. Artists are naturally drawn to spaces that have an aura around them, a tension, that is already endowed with meaning.”

For an event this month celebrating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Jampol’s Wende Museum, which is dedicated to Cold War history and culture, set up an 80-foot “wall” across a major Los Angeles boulevard and invited artists and taggers to paint it. He said he was struck by how often the U.S.-Mexico border came up as a theme.

Other border barriers have prompted similar expression, said Guillermo Alonso Meneses, a cultural anthropologist with the Colegio de la Frontera Norte in Baja California. This includes the new West Bank barrier in Israel, which has been marked in protest. Even the fences separating the Spanish outposts of Melilla and Ceuta from the rest of Morocco have been used by African migrants as a place to leave messages, Meneses said.

With access restricted to much of the north side, the art on the border fence between Tijuana and San Diego is unique to the south side. Many of the installations along the aging metal barrier that abuts Tijuana — referred to by U.S. authorities as the primary fence — have been temporary, and some of the displays that remain are weathered. Driving west along the fence from the border crossing at Otay Mesa past the city’s airport, one sees what appears to be an interminable stretch of white crosses with the names of the dead written in black. On occasion, a cross will have dried flowers tucked around it.

The crosses were attached to the fence in the late 1990s, said Claudia Smith of the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, a longtime migrant-rights activist who began collaborating with local artists to protest Operation Gatekeeper, a mid-1990s federal initiative to beef up border security.

At the time, additional fencing and other measures pushed human smuggling traffic toward East County mountains and the Imperial Valley desert, and border-crossing fatalities rose. The idea, Smith said, was to draw attention to the deaths.

“At the beginning, we were issuing news releases, but we realized there was no other way of conveying the magnitude of this tragedy,” said Smith, who continues to be involved in planning the installations with artists. “By doing something visual, and also something that was very prominently displayed, people would have to go by them as they went about their daily lives.”

Installations have included roughly 1,000 pairs of shoes with toe tags attached hung from the fence and a series of painted coffins, the latter the work of Tijuana artist Alberto Caro that has since been removed. A series of paintings by San Diego artist Michael Schnorr and members of the Border Art Workshop depicted a large fleshy wound with the words “La frontera es Una llaga abierta” — Spanish for the “the border is an open wound.” Some of the paintings still survive across from the airport.

Artist Susan Yamagata painted a skull motif on giant papier mâche boots and shoes that were displayed along the airport stretch, one shoe emblazoned with the words “¿Cuantos mas?” — Spanish for “How many more?”

“I wanted to be able to do something,” said Yamagata, who has worked on fence art projects with Smith. “I am not a wealthy person, but I can give time and labor. I felt it was a worthy cause.”

Just west of the airport, before the main road turns south and the pavement along the fence ends, a red obelisk with crosses stands in a small traffic circle, the city-sanctioned work of Tijuana artist Roberto Rosique. A closer look at the fence reveals words scratched in the metal, including a man’s name next to the word “Morelos,” a state in central-southern Mexico.

Along the fence, a close observer will find musings that Alonso said range from insults against U.S. border authorities to “quasi-poetic, saying, ‘I dream of the United States,’ or ‘My love awaits me in Los Angeles.’ You have to go walking the fence to find them.”

By the time the main road rejoins the fence toward Playas de Tijuana, the work of taggers can be seen on the fence. The protest art becomes visible again in Playas, where the fence extends into the ocean.

Over the years, there have been a series of installations on the south side of the fence, including a large painting of a skeleton drinking the last drop of water from a water jug and a traditional Mexican altar for the dead. Three paintings of “doors” — the only open one leading into a depiction of the desert — from a few years ago are still in place, the work of Yamagata and San Diego artist Todd Stands.

Most prominent is another cross-themed work, this one a massive cluster. Yamagata and Schnorr collaborated on it with Smith and with the Coalición Pro Defensa del Migrante, a Tijuana-based migrant aid organization. Hung from the fence near the beach are 5,100 white crosses, symbolizing the estimated number of border-crossing deaths in the past 15 years, strung together and draped from the top.

The display took six months to put together, said Esmeralda Siu, director of the migrant coalition. Volunteers, including the residents of a Tijuana migrant shelter, did much of the work of constructing and stringing the crosses together. They were installed Oct. 30, in time for Mexico’s traditional Day of the Dead holiday Nov. 2.

Swaying gently in the breeze, the crosses had a powerful effect on Silvia Urieta, 41, in Tijuana visiting relatives for the week.

“Imagine, how many people,” said Urieta, who lives in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, on the coast of Guerrero state. “I took photos so that my paisanos could see it.”

The installation was a sobering sight for the family as they posed for photos, otherwise merrily, by the 1851 marble monument marking the border.

“Those who come from the south, they get the wrong idea,” said Urieta’s brother-in-law Adrian Pineda, 35, a native of Tijuana. “They think it’s easy. But here is how easy it is. For many, the dream they have ends in a cross.”