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A Border Wall Already Exists In Some Places. We Visited It.

Last year, our photographer visited the heavily guarded—and completely empty—parts of the 2,000-mile-long U.S.-Mexico border.

In the photo above, the border wall separates Jacumba, California, from Jacume, Mexico, in the high desert. Use the scrollbar or swipe to see more.


President Trump ordered the construction today of a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. But there's at least one complication so far: a wall already exists in some areas. Last spring, we visited different parts of border—the ones heavily guarded with long lines for cars to cross, and the places where the two countries are separated by little more than dirt and trees.

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A double border wall, actually further inside the US prevents undocumented migrants from using the Tijuana River, on the other side of the second fence, as a corridor into the United States.


The border that Trump hopes the wall will protect is roughly 2,000 miles long. And the area spans diverse geology, including terrain not always hospitable or conducive to large-scale construction. (Trump hasn't said exactly how high he wants the wall to be, or how thick, although engineering and media critiques have questioned the feasibility of such a project.)

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A parked US Border Patrol SUV looks out across the US border wall at Tecate, Mexico, famous for Tecate and Carta Blanca beers, from California. As is typical along the US / Mexico border, the city on the Mexico side pushes up against the border, while the US side is largely open country.


Piecemeal walls have been used before in the region, and some have been successful in stopping large scale operations of smuggling and illegal immigration. The Smuggler's Gulch fence was designed as part of a $60 million engineering project to fortify 3.5 miles of fencing between San Diego and Tijuana. Further east in Jacumba, California, a border wall was constructed in the mid-1990s to disrupt human and drug trafficking. The large stretches to the east and west are the areas Trump wants to fix, the places with a small border fence, if one at all.

But photographer James Whitlow Delano learned during his time reporting along the border that walls alone don't solve such problems. In April of 2015, U.S. border patrol agents seized almost 70 pounds of amphetamines that drug smugglers had transported across the border. The border agents realized that to get around the wall between Calexico, California, and Mexicali, Mexico, the smugglers had found another way. They built a tunnel.