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U.S. Border Town Tries to Soothe Offended Neighbor

The southwestern United States (see enlargement)
The southwestern United States (see enlargement)

Alex Perrone, the mayor of Calexico, Calif., has been listening to the debate in Washington. But he's been watching the actual process up close in his town, which sits on the American side of the U.S. border with Mexico.

Calexico has a border crossing as well as a chain-link fence that separates it from its Mexican neighbor, Mexicali. The border towns have had a close relationship for more than 100 years.

Perrone says that the two cities' leaders meet every few months to discuss issues such as border patrol and economic development. They also exchange important drug-trafficking intelligence. But threats of a massive fence and National Guard troops could put a strain on the relationship.

"It will change the relationship," Perrone says. "It will change how our neighbors view us and how we do business."

Perrone says that the people who legally cross into Calexico every day are offended by the thought of three-layer fencing that, they believe, is specifically meant to keep Mexicans out of the United States.

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Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.