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VOSD's biweekly roundup of stories on the border, immigration and the San Diego-Baja California region (Mondays)
Immigration to the U.S. from Mexico might soon slow even without a wall, but companies are clamoring to build one anyway. Plus: More violence in Tijuana, ongoing fallout over the sewage spill, journeying to the U.S. in video game form and more in our biweekly roundup of news from the border.
A group of jornaleros — farm laborers — from San Quintín, a town on the western coast of Baja California that supplies an enormous amount of fruits and vegetables to tables across the United States, is traveling through Mexico and across the border to call attention to their dismal working conditions.
The workers went on strike in March 2015 to demand better working conditions and better pay. Currently, the jornaleros, who are mostly made up of various indigenous groups from across Mexico, make the equivalent of about $10 a day, working without health care in an environment in which children are routinely forced into labor, women are often assaulted on the field and men and women alike work heavily demanding physical jobs with long hours and no paid days off. The 2015 strike and series of demonstrations drew thousands and received worldwide attention, but resulted in little change.
The laborers are planning a march in Mexico City this week, on March 17.
Baja California’s governor visited San Quintín earlier in March to tour the region and announce that the state would be investing millions of pesos in local infrastructure there.
The Trump administration is deploying 50 judges to immigration detention facilities across the U.S.-Mexico border, including in San Diego, in order to expedite deportations.
The number of apprehensions at the border dropped 40 percent from January to February, the Department of Homeland Security has announced. The agency credited Trump’s executive order on immigration for the drop.
Meanwhile, immigration from Mexico to the U.S. could plummet further, even without the border wall, according to two UCSD economists.
• Speaking of border apprehensions, here are the San Diego companies that are interested in building the new, larger border wall to separate the two countries. More than 600 companies overall have put in bids for contracts.
• Volunteers from churches and activist groups have been building a “Little Haiti” village in Tijuana in order to house the thousands of people who appeared at the border to seek asylum in the United States, only to find themselves stranded and unable or unwilling to return to their home countries. Most come from Haiti, which is plagued by immense poverty, broken infrastructure and everyday violence. The new village is in Tijuana’s colonia Divina Providencia.
Mexico has reportedly offered “assisted return” to Haitians willing to go back to their country of origin.
• “Instead of at least treating us as humans, we are treated as animals. For them, we are animals,” Alfredo, a recently deported man living in a Tijuana shelter, tells Al Jazeera in the first of what is to be an in-depth series about life on the border.
• Deported veterans of the United States military, many of whom are clustered in Baja California, hope to return to the country they call home under the Trump administration. Military service does expedite green card or citizenship applications, but it is no guarantee service members won’t be deported. San Diego Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher has proposed a bill that would offer deported veterans legal services.
Baja California is preparing to declare a state of emergency over a spill that sent millions of gallons of raw sewage into the ocean, contaminating waters in Mexico and the United States. The spill was triggered by a major sewage line collapse in an already overloaded system, which released the contamination into the Tijuana River — which empties directly into the ocean at Imperial Beach. Tijuana has a state-of-the-art water purification system, but it is not built to contain the volume of sewage and water it receives after heavy rains. (There is some disagreement over how heavy the spill actually was: Authorities in the United States estimate at least 143 million of gallons of sewage flowed into the ocean over 17 days; Mexican officials say it was only 30 million gallons, over a four-day period.)
A planned pipeline that would carry sewage from coastal communities in Tijuana and Rosarito is part of a larger binational project, which is mostly funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, whose immediate future is now uncertain.
A prominent Tijuana activist, Hugo Castro of Ángeles de la Frontera, or Border Angels, says a group of government-run yellow taxi drivers in Tijuana threatened to kill him as he ushered a recently deported person into an independent and less expensive Taxi Libre. Castro said he called the local police, but no one ever arrived.
• A “wave of violence” continues in Tijuana, where five people were shot and killed in a Zona Norte boarding house over the weekend. Local authorities said that the shootings were drug-related. There have been more than 200 murders reported this year alone; last year saw a total of more than 900.
Two more people were shot and killed in Tijuana Sunday evening.
• Border agents found a large amount of painkillers — $1.42 million worth of oxycodone, to be exact — in a secret compartment inside a 1999 Honda Accord at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry last week.
March 8 was International Women’s Day, celebrated on the border as Día de la Mujer. The Front in San Ysidro opened a new exhibition the day after, showcasing women artists. “Back to Basics” runs through mid-April.
• A new video game recreates the deadly journey from the United States to Mexico. Gonzalo Alvarez, a Texas illustrator and child of Mexican immigrants, says he created the game as a playable piece of protest art.
A reporter for The Daily Beast discovers that Tijuana has taxis and that people there really don’t like President Donald Trump.