As if in slow motion, the baseball flies just beyond the grasp of Joshua Guerrero, 11, and bounces between the poles of the border fence before coming to rest on the Arizona side of the fence.
Uh-oh. A friendly game of catch on a balmy April afternoon in San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora, has just turned into an international incident. But while the roughly 20-foot-tall fence poses a challenge to drug smugglers between San Luis and its sister city in Arizona, it doesn’t faze Joshua.
Like kids everywhere who lose a baseball in a neighbor’s yard, Joshua knows how to get it back. After all, this isn’t the first time a ball has bounced through the gaps between the metal poles of the fence. He and his friend Francisco Obeso, 13, regularly play catch and kick a soccer ball on the dirt road that runs between Francisco’s house in San Luis, Sonora, and the border fence.
Joshua quickly grabs a two-pronged stick and pokes it across the border. He and Francisco coax the ball along the “enforcement zone” between the double-layered fence, creating a hollow, metallic ding each time the stick makes contact.
Success! Joshua reaches his hand into the roughly 50-yard-wide enforcement zone separated by two layers of border fence, and hauls in the fruit of their efforts. Ball in hand, he throws it to Francisco and the game resumes.
A decade ago, Francisco’s father hopped the landing-mat fence — which was replaced by the poles late last year — to chase an errant ball. A Border Patrol agent spotted him and detained him.
“They’re going to take my dad!” a panicked Francisco told his mother, Fabiola Obeso, that day. But Francisco’s father paid a fine and was back with the family without too much trouble.
This time, as Francisco and Joshua reach across the international line, a Border Patrol agent parked on the other side of the second layer of the fence shows no indication of concern.
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