TIJUANA (Border Report) — On Thursday night, hundreds of police officers, maintenance crews, social workers, and other Tijuana city employees descended on the migrant camp, surprising residents and in some cases, frightening them.
The city claimed its crews were there to begin a census and to issue ID cards to limit access to the site just south of the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
The city is now saying participation in this headcount is mandatory and that all migrants need to be registered by the weekend.
“When they leave or not, we will notice per the census taken,” said Tijuana Mayor Montserrat Caballero Ramírez. “Those who don’t take part are probably hiding something and won’t be allowed to stay.”
The mayor said during previous visits that the city had estimated up to 1,700 people at the camp, but as of Thursday night, per initial figures, there were only 700 people who called themselves migrants.
“There are a lot of empty tents, it’s obvious not everyone there is a migrant … we found many tents filled with wet blankets, clothes and other items there, it was obvious nobody was living in them,” she said.
For this reason, crews from the city confiscated many tents and items found inside, according to the city’s Chief of Police Jose Sanchez.
“We had information many tents were empty, we’ve also learned a lot of the tents are now being rented and sold by certain individuals, this is why we were taking them out,” Sanchez said.
But a migrant from Honduras named Bryan said his tent where his two children and wife sleep, was destroyed by crews and police officers.
“Where am I going to sleep from now on,” Bryan asked. “Where are my two children and sick wife going to sleep?”
Bryan said the city had no right to touch his belongings.
“They left me out on the street, worse than a dog because at least a dog gets a scrap now and then, what are we going to do with our little ones?”
City officials said it was time they established some order with the ID cards.
Workers also put up a chain-link fence around the perimeter of the site.
“There is drug trafficking at the camp and other crimes,” said Chief Sanchez. “This will help us gain control of who goes in and out of the area.”
But Bryan and others believe the city is planning to oust them.
“They should feel some shame in what they are doing to us migrants, what they are doing to the humble people who are here who just want to work,” he said.
The city insists this is not the beginning of the end for the camp and that no one will be forced out of the area.
“What are we intending to do here?” said Gerardo Lopez Montes, Tijuana’s Secretary of Well Being. “We continue to provide services, we are bringing in food, we’re providing health care and psychological counseling and many other services, we will continue to do this.”
Montes did admit the city has not given up on its search for adequate shelter space for the migrants near downtown Tijuana, and that at some point, migrants will be given the choice to move there.
A large portion of the camp sits on a plaza where tourists and others enter and exit on their way to and from the United States through one of two pedestrian crossings at San Ysidro Port of Entry.
Clearing the camp is considered a must if this crossing is to open in the future.
Ped West, as it’s known north of the border, and El Chaparral as it is called in Mexico, has been closed since April of last year due to the pandemic.
The camp first started forming back in late February when President Biden announced asylum-seekers who were part of the Migrant Protection Protocols program would be given access to the U.S.
Many other migrants, who were not part of the program, were led to believe they would also be allowed to cross the border at some point and began arriving at the camp thinking they would be first in line should the border open to all migrants.
Almost 10 months later, it hasn’t.
The White House on Friday launched a second bid to end the Trump-era policy, with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas saying it though it likely contributed to a drop in illegal border crossings in 2019, it came with “substantial and unjustifiable human costs” to asylum-seekers who were exposed to violence while waiting in Mexico, according to the Associated Press.