On the Other Side – Stories of Deportation

On the Other Side – Stories of Deportation

“The border between Tijuana and San Diego is the busiest land crossing in the world. Sixty percent of the deportees come from the south of Mexico. Given that they have failed to cross the border successfully, the majority do not want to return home to their families because of the shame they will have to endure”

Photos and text by Francois Razon

A young couple that has been deported from the USA, Tijuana

 

In 2014, around 250,000 Mexicans were deported from the United States. More than 60 000 were left in Tijuana, Mexico, a border city between Mexico-United States where life is a gamble of will, luck, thievery and police arrest. The border between Tijuana and San Diego is the busiest land crossing in the world. Sixty percent of the deportees come from the south of Mexico. Given that they have failed to cross the border successfully, the majority do not want to return home to their families because of the shame they will have to endure. Nor do they want to return to the south where the cartel violence is rife. After all, families have fled to avoid the violence, hoping to seek asylum and protection in the US. For these reasons, deportees remain in “el Bordo”, Tijuana.

There are three types of migrants living in Tijuana: migrants who are planning to cross the border, deportees attempting to cross again, and deportees who do not want to cross the border again nor do they want to return home. The living conditions in el Bordo are poor. Holes are made in the streets of Tijuana, building informal camps in the style of bunkers with dirty water flooding the areas. Some deportees have lived in these bunkers for years with no intention of leaving. They survive by recycling plastics from the sewers, begging in the streets, cleaning cars or stealing. Access to cheap drugs, such as crystal meth and heroine, is also easy. Many succumb to drug addiction to cope with the loneliness, lack of jobs and the unacceptable conditions their lives have become.

A number of local churches and charities work in Tijuana to help migrants recover from deportation, get off the streets, and reintegrate into society. Among these organizations is El Desayunador Salesiano del Padre Chava which is a program that offers daily meals, clean clothes and shower as well as health and psychology services and a drug recovery program. Another organization called Casa del Migrante helps deportees return to their hometowns by offering a bus ride or flight, which is supported by the Mexican government since there is pressure from US authorities to avoid recidivist illegal migrants. In 1984 a new border was erected in Tijuana in addition to the existing one. Since then, about 6000 migrants have died due to the new border. The new border has high technology detectors sensors, night vision cameras and more border patrols, making the border crossing more and more difficult. This has pushed the flux of illegal migrants from the San Diego-Tijuana metropolitan border to the east of Tijuana into the backcountry of the Mountain Empire. The region consists of rugged terrains and foothills where border fences and controls are less vigilant. On this route, migrants attempt to cross miles and miles of mountains and desert with countless dangers along the way, such as kidnapping by the cartels, rape, snakes and extreme cold and hot weather.

The Mexican government is actively trying to end el Bordo. Forty-percent of the Tijuana migrants are currently planning to cross the border to the US. Many are waiting for an “el coyote” to provide them with a ride or crucial information about the border patrol rotations before attempting to cross. Despite the dangerous attempts and consequences awaiting these migrants at el Bordo, they have high hopes of a better life on the other side.

Tijuana, Mexico.  January 2015

Photos and Text: Francois Razon


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