Hundreds of people cross the border into El Paso every morning. There is a line at the bridge starting at 3am. The earliest birds are clearly crossing for labor, there is always a congregation right across the bridge where school buses pick up laborers to go to fields in the west edge of town or in new Mexico or construction sites in the far northeast and east of El Paso.
The later birds, the ones from 5 am to 8 am and even later are very often students that attend both the University of Texas at El Paso or any of the Community College’ campuses. These students are often citizens of the United States that live south of the border with their parents. Some rent flats because it is so much cheaper to live down there. But one of the interesting phenomena that arises with the transborder student and even with the El Paso’s regional student in general has to do with textbooks. I personally boycott textbooks in general, I don’t buy them or use them at all. It does take a toll I must say but it is a principle that I have kept for at least 4 semesters now. The reason I do this is because I regard the textbook industry with the same scorn as the pharmaceutical one, for taking advantage of the same people they are supposed to help and doing so in their most vulnerable of situations. So my choice is to boycott text books, but the majority’s choice in this region is to borrow them, take them across the border and xerox them for a fraction of the cost. This is sometimes even encouraged by sympathetic professors (fact which I admire, not because of the encouragement of the illegality but because they stand on the side of the student not the academic machine). So the interesting part is that if you ever get searched at the border for any particular reason and a xeroxed book is found on you they can confiscate it and you can be subject to fines, large ones too. It is specially during back to school season that this is enforced to a higher degree than normal, of course. So again, our dear border officials aren’t just there to prevent Saudi Arabian terrorist from passing as Mexicans though the border, they are also there to defend the principle of higher education at the highest cost in the western world. If you encounter long lines at the border during back to school season, don’t be annoyed, be thankful that all of those evil book smugglers are being targeted and our way of life safely kept.
P.S. Picture taken by Gustavo Martinez from Fromex