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SAN LUIS, Ariz., and SAN LUIS RIO COLORADO, Mexico - It was about 9:30 p.m. when she heard the tapping on her back door.

Azucena Urquides, who was helping her daughters with their homework at the kitchen table, told them to be quiet and not to move. She was startled as she heard the backyard water faucet turn on but certain the stranger - most likely an undocumented immigrant making the trek across the U.S.-Mexico border - would go away.

Events like this are common in this new Arizona neighborhood that sits two blocks from a dirt line that separates the two nations.

"I never call the police or the migra. . . . He just wanted water and he left," Urquides said. "[The United States] needs to find a better way to protect the border."

But it is not without some ambivalence, skepticism and fear that people on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border look at the new steel fences in their backyards or the extra U.S. military ordered to the border to keep undocumented immigrants out of the United States.

Those attitudes came into tighter focus as a group of 55 National Guard soldiers from Utah spent the past two weeks working on the border near San Luis, Ariz., among the vanguard of a force of 6,000 that President Bush has called for to bolster security.

Those who live with the border every day understand the importance of better enforcement, but they fear the fences and soldiers will force undocumented immigrants, mostly men looking for work to support their parents and families, to find other ways. They might try crossing in other open parts of Arizona's desert border that runs for 379 miles. They might try other means, such as being smuggled in trucks.

On the outskirts of San Luis Río Colorado, a city of 15,000 people on the Mexican side of the border, some residents watched last week as the Utah soldiers built a steel fence the length of about three football fields. The soldiers returned Saturday from their two-week mission.

Daniel Beltran, a 30-year-old Mexican truck driver who lives in San Luis Río Colorado, crosses the border legally for work each week. He said he can't believe the U.S. government is spending millions of dollars on the border when it can use the money for education and health care programs.

"They should be helping the people," Beltran said in Spanish. "The wall doesn't help anyone."

Santiago Moreno hopes the wall will be enough to stop some Mexicans, his "paisanos," from risking their lives to cross the border, but he knows it won't.

"They can put whatever walls they want, but the people will find another way around those walls," Moreno said. "It's just going to make it harder for them to cross."

Moreno, 18, works at Bazorcito Moys, a general store where people, mostly truck drivers, can buy cold Coke in bottles, white Fruit of the Loom briefs, Jovan Musk for women and other items 24 hours a day.

The store, built mostly of steel beams and gray tarps, sits along a highway. Behind it, the border fence is being built. In front of the store, there is dirt for as far as the eye can see. Employees try to keep cool from the 115 degree heat during the day by sitting in front of a swamp cooler and sprinkling water on themselves.

Sometimes, during the night, Mexicans as well as South and Central Americans hoping to cross the border stop by, employees said. They get $1 sodas or bottled water and cookies, but rarely make conversation.

"They come and buy and leave quickly," Moreno said.

Maria Guadalupe Herrera, a store employee, refers to the fence as the new "Berlin Wall." In the past few months, store employees said, they have seen an increase in law enforcement, trucks and helicopters patrolling the U.S. side of the border. On Mexico's side, there's not much activity.

Herrera said she's scared for the Mexicans and others crossing the border because it seems to be more dangerous nowadays.

"If they know what's happening, why do they still do it?" she asked.

Moreno, who lives with his parents and two younger siblings, makes $2.08 an hour working at the store 12 hours a day, six days a week. He has family who has moved to the United States for a better life, but he has little desire to do so.

"I'm here in my country with my people," Moreno said.

Still, he worries about how undocumented immigrants are being treated by the U.S. law enforcement.

"I understand they're doing their job," Moreno said. "I just hope they're treating the mojaditos with respect." (Mojaditos - wetbacks - is a term of endearment on the Mexican side of the border for those people who enter the United States illegally.)

For Azucena Urquides and her husband of 12 years, Francisco, their backyard is still not much safer than it was a few months ago in Yuma County - a place with about 160,000 people, of which half are Latino.

U.S. authorities announced last week that detentions along the border decreased by 21 percent, to 26,994, in the first 10 days of June, compared with 34,077 for the same period a year ago. Still, a U.S. Border Patrol spokesman in Washington said the desert region's blistering June temperatures typically drive down the number of migrants, The Associated Press reported.

The Urquideses said they've seen a decrease of undocumented immigrants running across their neighborhood in the past two months, but they wonder where the crossers have gone. The extra security and new fence might make people feel safer, they said, but the real problem is human trafficking. The couple said they don't fear the undocumented workers like they do the polleros, the coyotes who guide or smuggle immigrants for a fee. They worry about the extreme actions polleros might take now.

"They just care about the money," said Francisco Urquides, who has lived on both sides of the border for 17 years. "They're very, very bad."