Lupe Dempsey, a retired federal agent, brings her Glock 9mm with her when she goes down to the Rio Grande. She believes the border is too wide open, evidenced by this unguarded metal walkway across the river in far West Texas. (John Burnett/NPR)
Polls show that the idea of building a wall across the southern border remains unpopular with the general public and especially in the U.S. borderlands.
But not everyone living near the international divide opposes a barrier between the U.S. and Mexico. Donald Trump has a small, zealous following along the southern frontier.
Hudspeth County, in far West Texas, has desert, mountains, cactus, coyotes and 250 Republicans. The GOP county chair is Maria Guadalupe Dempsey. She looks as sweet as a school crossing guard, but for 20 years she worked as a criminal investigator with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She says lots of folks in lower Hudspeth, where she lives, are concerned about border security.
“Border Patrol does a good job of patrolling this area, but it is kind of difficult to patrol it all the time,” She says. “So I would see a wall maybe as a deterrent.”
As proof of a porous border, she describes a footbridge across the Rio Grande, built years ago, that is completely unguarded. After a bumpy 20 minute drive from Interstate 10 down to the riverside, seeing is believing. Sure enough, it’s a narrow metal walkway across the river that anyone could walk across from the Valle de Juarez, in Mexico, which is home to farmers and violent drug smugglers.
“[It’s] the same that you would do in your house,” Dempsey says, holding a Glock 9mm handgun for protection. “You build a fence, you put a gate up and you open and close it as you wish. You invite people in. You don’t want people who are not invited to come into the country.”