I learned to love working in Nogales, Sonora back in the late 1990s, when I first covered border issues for the Arizona Daily Star.
One of the main reasons: No trip there was ever a wasted trip. If you didn't find what you were looking for, you'd find something else worth exploring.
I went to the soup kitchen for migrants, just south of the Mariposa Port of Entry Tuesday morning, looking for a particular witness to the shooting. I didn't find him, but I did get to see Francisco "Panchito" Olachea at work giving medical aid to people just back from failed border crossings.
The worst case was that of Omar Matus, a 32-year-old from Magdalena de Kino, Sonora who tried to climb the border fence early Tuesday morning but fell. Matus sported painful abrasions on his legs and abdomen, as well as injured knees. He grimaced and shouted as Olachea applied an ointment to the wounds.
Matus said he'd have to return to Magdalena — there was no way he could try to cross again in the condition he was in.
I also came across a 33-year-old man named Martín who had lived for years near Alvernon and Fort Lowell before being arrested and deported a couple of months ago. He said he was stopped for speeding, found to be in the country illegally, and sent to an immigration detention center in Florence before being deported.
Martín spoke in fluent English and flashed passionate anger as he told his story. Now he's biding his time in Nogales, Sonora, trying to make a new crossing to get back to Tucson and rejoin his wife and kids, who go to elementary school here.
He made one try with a small group a couple of days ago, but agents spotted them. Martín was able to escape back into Mexico, which he said was a good thing because otherwise he'd likely have been imprisoned for a longer time.
When I drove through the DeConcini Port of Entry to head back into the U.S., the inspector took forever going through the minivan in front of me.
As I finally got the chance to drive up and present my ID, the inspector, a woman, was telling her co-worker casually about how she was sure there was something in the vehicle because she could see spotters watching from just south of the line. I had my own opinion about which car the spotters might have been monitoring — an Impala that made a suspicious lane-switch in front of me in the lines at the port.
All this interesting stuff is part of daily life down there, one of the big reasons I love working in Nogales, Sonora.