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Paisanos Returning Home Checked In U.S. Before Entering Mexico


PRESIDIO, Texas — Lorne Matalon

Cars and trucks snake along a sliver of road where Texas ends and Mexico begins. Mexican-Americans are heading home with every bit of space packed with family, appliances and Christmas presents.

All along the U.S.-Mexico border, tens of thousands of Mexicans are returning home for Christmas as they do every year. At the crossing that links Presidio, Texas, with Ojinaga, Mexico, in far West Texas, security checks by U.S. agents are taking place before the drivers cross into Mexico.

Vicente Urias says he’s been waiting in line for a long while. He’s a legal resident of the United States. He says the destination matters more to him than the wait to get there.

"I don't mind the wait," he said in Spanish. "But goodness we've been in line for half an hour."

Drivers and passengers are being questioned before leaving the U.S.

The move may be in part a response to accusations by the Mexican government that Washington is not doing enough to stop the flow of illegal weapons and narco-dollars into Mexico.

Lorne Matalon

Maximo Galban, 89, entered the U.S. on foot after clearing U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Everyone seems to get that.

But for truck driver Jose Villanueva, looking weary after traveling 10 hours to get here from Dallas, he says it’s time to expand this bridge — one lane for truckers, the other for tourists.

Mexico’s President agrees. When Enrique Peña Nieto unveiled an economic stimulus for the border here on Thanksgiving Day, he announced he’d smooth travel just in time for Christmas.

He closed checkpoints on the Mexican side of this border crossing to help Mexicans coming or going. The checkpoints will not open again. His aides told reporters that Peña Nieto is urging the U.S. to expand this two-lane bridge by adding another lane.

Rogelio Castillo said in Spanish, “ We need another bridge or maybe two.”

Lorne Matalon

Immediately after clearing U.S. Customs, a vehicle was pulled over for further inspection by a U.S. Border Patrol agent.

About 2,000 cars are expected to enter Mexico here over the next three days. Ingnacia Serrano took one look at the line and decided to leave her car in Texas and walk into Mexico.

Despite a small setback, she says all she’s focused on now is the Christmas turkey she’ll grill up for her family in Chihuahua.

Another traveler from Texas, Mario Chacon, is headed to his birthplace Parral, Chihuahua, the home of Mexican revolutionary icon Pancho Villa.

He says Christmas means his family — separated for months at a time — is reunited. He says he knows nothing about border security or bilateral politics, nothing about a hoped-for bridge expansion.

But he says Christmas and Semana Santa, or Holy Week at Easter, are his favorite days of the year because they are spent with family.