February 20, 2019 / Modified feb 20, 2019 2:12 p.m.

'A Little Bit of Everything' in New Mexico Border Community

Locals in Columbus say the peaceful town is a crossroads for people who find themselves in the Southwest.

This week, Arizona 360 embarked on a journey to continue our coverage of border-related issues. We traveled across state lines to trace the international border through New Mexico and to El Paso, Texas where President Trump held a campaign rally Monday. Our travels took us to the rally, and to communities along the way, where we sought to understand if rhetoric about border security reflects a crisis at the U.S. southern border.

As our crew headed back west on our trip visiting border communities, our next stop was Columbus, New Mexico, a small community just a few miles north of the international border that has a population of about 2,000 people. It neighbors the Mexican town of Puerto Palomas, which is roughly twice the size of Columbus. On the beaten path, we meet Adriana Zizumbo, owner of the Borderland Café. The restaurant's location at the corner of intersecting state highways 9 and 11 make it a popular destination for locals and travelers alike. 

"We get a little bit of everything. The locals, customs agents, Border Patrol, teachers," Zizumbo said. "We get everyone that's going to California, Arizona, Texas or Mexico."

Born and raised in Columbus, Zizumbo describes her hometown as a tranquil community where crime is uncommon and those passing through rarely worry about their safety in Mexico. 

"If anything, I hear them more concerned about not having a passport or they didn't bring it. But you never hear them not wanting to go because it's not safe," Zizumbo said.

At the café, Glen and Nancy Hoehne share their views at the border with Lorraine Rivera. They spend three months on the road every winter away from their home in Wyoming. They said Border Patrol's presence and barriers at international line put them at ease in communities like Columbus. But they're less certain about more remote areas where there are fewer resources. 

"If the people who are in power can put walls around their homes to feel safe, maybe we can put a wall around our home to keep us feeling safer," Glen Hoehne said.

A few miles south, the port of entry is New Mexico's only port open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. According to Customs and Border Protection, only a handful of migrants have requested asylum at the port. Instead, the agency said cartels in Mexico are mostly directing asylum seekers about 90 miles southwest of Columbus outside the more sparsely populated Antelope Wells, an unincorporated community in New Mexico's boot heel region. Agents apprehended a group of 330 immigrants there the day before our stay in the state. 

Arizona 360
Arizona 360 airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. on PBS 6 and Saturdays at 8 p.m. on PBS 6 PLUS. See more from Arizona 360.
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