Nick Miroff
The Washington Post
January 3, 2012

A decade ago, when illegal immigration from Mexico was at an all-time high, this stretch of border was as good a place as any to sneak into the United States.

Migrants and smugglers could slip through the alfalfa fields outside town or plow their pickup trucks through the desert, where the biggest worries were stuck tires and getting safely across the irrigation canals.

But in the past five years, the international border here has become a harder, tougher, taller barrier — an American Great Wall. Miles of steel fencing now ride the desolate sand dunes west of Calexico, and to the east, giant jack-shaped “Normandy” barriers block off old smuggling routes, named for their resemblance to the defenses that once lined the beaches of northern France in World War II.

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