FAMILY LIFE ON THE BORDER: NOW

Nervous parents keep their kids close to home

2011-12-11T00:00:00Z 2011-12-12T12:41:57Z Nervous parents keep their kids close to homeBrady McCombs Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
December 11, 2011 12:00 am  • 

DOUGLAS - Jennifer Majalca has been warned about falling for the temptation of quick, easy money offered by drug smugglers.

She's heard it from her parents, and from police officers who came to speak to students at Douglas High School.

"It's scary. They tell you, 'Don't get involved. Once you get involved, it's either go to jail or lose your life,'" says Jennifer, a 16-year-old sophomore.

Mexican drug smugglers often recruit youngsters from Douglas who go dancing or drinking in Agua Prieta, says Jennifer's father, Reynaldo Majalca. That's one big reason, along with the overall increase in violence in Mexico, that Majalca forbids his daughter from going into Agua Prieta alone, even though he grew up there and the family still has relatives there.

"When we go (to Mexico), we go in as a family," Reynaldo Majalca says. "And when we go, we're always nervous."

Teenagers like Jennifer live in a much different border climate than the one in which their parents grew up in, or even that of teenagers of the 1980s or 1990s. Growing up in the 1960s in Mexico, Reynaldo and his pals hopped over the three strands of barbed-wire at the international line to play baseball, go swimming and ride burros in the U.S. American kids would jump the fence to play in Mexico, too.

Now, fearful their children will be approached by smugglers or caught in a gunbattle between warring drug gangs, parents sometimes lock up IDs and passports required to cross the border.

When Jennifer was a small child, her mother, Rosalva, kept a close watch on her as the sun set because a steady flow of people and smugglers moved through the neighborhood at night. Smugglers used to hide groups of illegal immigrants in the Majalcas' backyard a block from the border, or in a camping trailer parked out back, or even on the roofs of nearby houses.

As Jennifer grew older, the Border Patrol beefed up patrols and fortified fencing, pushing most of the human smuggling traffic out of town. That let the Majalcas and other families who live in border cities to once again sit on their patios at night, walk the dogs and let children outside without fear.

The Majalcas echo what most say today in U.S. border cities - they feel totally safe in Douglas. But the fences and heavy border enforcement separate residents from their relatives and friends in Agua Prieta.

"Trust me, there's cool stuff over there," Jennifer says. "There's bowling. The theater, it's like, amazing. There's restaurants for kids to hang out in. But you can't just go by yourself. You have to have someone looking after you because who knows what might happen?"

She says it's sad to see some of her classmates get sucked into smuggling drugs across Arizona's borderlands, the busiest crossing point for marijuana and people on the nearly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border.

One night earlier this year, she saw two boys she knew from school get out of their car, walk to the border fence, pick up loads of dope and load it into the trunk.

"They even did it in front of us, as if it wasn't that obvious," Jennifer says.

They didn't get caught that night, she says. But soon after, they both did.

Contact reporter Brady McCombs at 573-4213 or bmccombs@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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