SAN DIEGO (AP) — Under the watch of a Border Patrol agent, U.S. and Mexican pastors set up two small altars — one on each side of a towering border fence — for their Sunday service that spans two countries.
The priests then break bread simultaneously and hold up their challises to the tightly woven metal barrier. The guitar player is in Mexico, strumming a song led by clergy on the U.S. side. The buzzing of a passing Border Patrol officer on an all-terrain vehicle interrupts the music.
The religious service is one of myriad ways that life is seeping across the border post 9/11 as Congress considers spending billions on further fortification.
Ranchers, deputies and lawmakers from border states have long pleaded for federal help, saying their areas were overrun by people entering the U.S. illegally and armed smugglers.
But today there is growing opposition along the nearly 2,000-mile boundary to more agents and fences.
Hours-long waits and overtaxed officers have become the norm at crossings, costing the region billions by deterring Mexican shoppers and delaying U.S. shipments, border mayors say. They favor expanding “trusted traveler” programs that give passes to pre-vetted crossers, digital fingerprinting and other technology to make ports of entry more secure, though Congress hasn’t addressed those ideas.
A far-reaching bill passed by the Democratic-led Senate in June calls for an additional 20,000 Border Patrol agents, 700 miles of fencing and high-tech detection devices. The proposed measures are tied to overhauling laws to address illegal immigration, including providing a path to citizenship for some.