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Will President-Elect Trump build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico?

Posted at 10:41 PM, Nov 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-30 12:07:59-05

NOGALES, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - A steel fence is what separates Nogales, Arizona, from Mexico.

But when Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada looks to the south, he sees two countries and one community. In border towns like Nogales, immigration is a complex issue that Sheriff Estrada says can't be solved by building a wall. 
 
"When people would ask me, 'Sheriff are you for illegal immigration?' No. none of us are for illegal immigration," Estrada said. "But the stark reality is the people will keep coming because these are poor people that have no paper trail."
 
Building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico became a trademark of President-elect Donald Trump's campaign. In a recent 60 Minutes interview, Trump said he still plans on building the wall but would consider fencing in certain spots.
 
In the 49 years he's been in law enforcement Sheriff Estrada has seen the human side of immigration, something he doesn't think President-elect Trump understands. 
 
"I come from humble beginnings, so I understand," Estrada said. "I have a lot of empathy for these people. That is something that Donald Trump does not have."
 
"He has not had a day that he has not had something to eat or a roof over his head. So how can you understand? How can you relate to people like this? You can't relate to them," Estrada said. 
 
While the sheriff remains skeptical of the Trump administration, the president-elect has garnered support from federal agents with an endorsement from the National Border Patrol Council.
 
Art Del Cueto, the president of the Tucson Border Patrol Local Union, has met with the incoming president. Del Cueto says Trump reached out to agents and wanted to know the concerns from the agents on the ground.
 
"We've never had this opportunity, the National Border Patrol Council, has never been in this position where they can speak so openly and candidly," Del Cueto said. 
 
While border security is the number one priority, Del Cueto says agents would like to see Trump address issues like pay and hours, and working conditions for the agents. Del Cueto says the agents want to work on enforcing laws that are already on the books. 
 
"We need to get back down to basics, where there's real consequences for the individuals that break that laws and we actually return individuals that we apprehend," Del Cueto said. "That's our job as border patrol agents, to defend the borders."
 
The length of the U.S.-Mexico border stretches roughly 2,000 miles, including areas of rough, mountainous terrain. 
 
There's already about 650 miles of fencing in place, but not all of it looks like the steel fence in Nogales. Over the years illegal crossings have fluctuated after spiking in the mid-90's, Estrada said, and those crossings have moved to the more rural areas of the county.
 
Del Cueto believes Trump's idea goes beyond a brick and mortar wall and we have room for improvement. 
 
"I think there's areas where there is not much fencing, and there is not much of a wall at all, that we can get better and put some kind of true obstacle there," Del Cueto said. "But obviously there's areas where we have natural barriers, and we recognize that there's things you can put there that theoretically would be a wall."
 
While some in the Hispanic community have been upset by statements made by President-elect Trump, Del Cueto believes the media has twisted Trump's words. 
 
"I've met with him, I'm Hispanic. My wife has met with him, my wife is Hispanic. And there was no prejudices there," Del Cueto said. "He was extremely respectful. I think the country is moving forward in the right direction, and we just need to wait." 
 
President-elect Trump has said he wants to focus on deporting illegal immigrants that have criminal records, something Sheriff Estrada can agree with. Estrada says the drug issue along the border pales in comparison to illegal immigration. As a small agency, he hopes President-elect Trump can allocate more resources to local law enforcement.
 
"He made a lot of promises to a lot of people, he incited a lot of concern, and I think that's what he did more than anything else," Estrada said. "I think once the reality kicks in he'll continue to soften on a lot of these issues and we're hoping that's the case."