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Crossing the border into Calexico

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Michelle Walsh

Michelle Walsh

Mexicali resident Michelle Walsh said she has had several bad experiences crossing the border, including alleged insults by U.S. a Customs and Border Protection officer.

Mexicali resident Michelle Walsh no longer wants to cross the U.S.-Mexico border by herself.

An incident involving a U.S.  Customs and Border Protection officer allegedly calling her a “drug hag” and a “tweaker,” among other names, while she was detained at a Calexico Port of Entry in August has left a bad taste in the her mouth.

Walsh moved to Mexicali earlier this year and works in a dental office.  She recounts numerous incidents where she has seen Border Protection officers acting aggressively, using profanity, and as a whole, making the border-crossing experience something she doesn’t want to go through again.

In the August incident, Walsh was coming across the border to price a numbing drug for her office called lidocaine.  It’s not illegal in the U.S.  or Mexico, but she didn’t realize she needed to declare it.

“I’m not a drug hag or a whore hag or a tweaker, or any of those things,” she said.  “I should have declared that.  That part is my fault.

I’m debating the way I was treated.” She emphasized that it was not an isolated incident and said many friends of hers have had similar experiences.

“This is what it’s like every time I cross the border.  I hate it.  It’s awful,” she continued.  “I am a U.S.  citizen.  I was born in Des Moines, Iowa.  It’s just not right.  Something needs to change.”

Calexico Ports Director Billy Whitford said the number of complaints received by the Calexico ports is low considering the large number of people crossing each day. CBP interacts with the public more than any other law agency in the community.

“Most of those 45,000 travelers every day here in Calexico have a neutral, or even positive experience during their inspection with CBP,” Whitford said.  “With that being said, one legitimate complaint is too many, and we continually work to improve.

“Their crossings are a vital part of our local community, and we do our best to speed these legitimate crossings, while still maintaining the integrity of our borders and stopping any and all illegal activity that we encounter.” In response to the community, CBP has improved the waiting area referred to as “the cage” by adding privacy screenings, a television and evaporative cooler during the summer.  Whitford said it’s similar to holding areas at other ports of entry.

After complaining to authorities, Walsh received letters from CBP officials who apologized for the “unpleasant nature of the border crossing,” and then stated, “we have reviewed the matter closely and find no evidence of misconduct, unprofessional behavior, or inappropriate comments.”

We understand that Michelle’s story will next appear on Dateline.

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