Privilege: A Tale of Two Borders

As you all know, I live in a border town. Douglas AZ and Agua Prieta Mexico would normally be considered one town, if not for the giant wall dividing them. I know people who live in Douglas and work in AP, and also people who live in AP and work in Douglas. These people probably cross the border 10-15 times a week.

As you also know, I’m a white guy. I also happen to be American. Because of my job, I cross the border between the U.S. and Mexico anywhere from 2-6 times a day. This has given me great insight into crossing barriers. You would probably guess that there are major differences crossing each way right?

Wrong.

Sure, there are small differences. When I cross from Mexico to the U.S., I actually ride my bike through the border. Crossing back into Mexico from the U.S. I have to get off my bike and enter via the pedestrian entrance. But that’s nothing major at all.

When I cross from Mexico into the U.S., I normally get asked a few quick questions (and hear lots of surprise when I share that I live in AP) and get sent of my way. At most they ask to check my bag or check my bike tubes to make sure they don’t have things hidden in them. Oftentimes, it’s a simple ‘how are you, where are you going’ and I roll on through. One time I got no bag check and not even a question! This is a big difference compared to the ordeal non-Americans go through. They’ve got reflectors to check under the cars, dogs to sniff for people and drugs, and they make people open trunks and doors to get a thorough check. Obviously a bike is easier to check but still! Be fair damn it! Treat me like everyone else!

Welcome to the US sign on the Mexican side of the wall (I get confused as to whether I'm in Mexico or the US)
Welcome to the US sign (Notice the wall keeping us away from the US)

But then again, I have to go through the process one more time to get home to Mexico. Here’s the time right? I’ll get that fair search that I’m looking for right?

Wrong. Again.

You would think (or at least I did) that being an American coming into Mexico that I would be a bit of a target. Finally, someone to possibly discriminate against, to get back at for the hassle Mexicans put up with crossing into the U.S. But nope, it’s just as easy going home. In the countless times I’ve crossed, I’ve had my bag checked a couple of times. Agents have asked me twice where I live and what I’m doing. Why? Do I look that non-threatening? Do they not care what gets brought back? Are Mexicans that much nicer regardless of race? Or does being American really give me that much safety and credit? I like to think it’s due to Mexicans being less hateful and harsh to non-Mexicans, but I know what the reason most likely is. For some reason, unknown to me, being an American gives me something extra. It sets me above others. Why is that? Does our passport really give us that much clout or protection? Does it point us out as someone special and above check? I don’t know the answers, but I do know that it gives me a unique and beautiful chance to be a mediator, someone who floats between two places and cultures, experiencing life (to a degree) in two vastly worlds. I just hope that God gives me the grace and patience to share the story truthfully.

Sign informing me that I am now leaving the US
Sign informing me that I am now leaving the US
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