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Border Report: The Border Agent Boom Hasn't Materialized

Private prisons are booming under Trump as immigration cases languish, a Tijuana Council member pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor related to a money-smuggling scheme, lowriders on display in Barrio Logan and more in our biweekly roundup of news from the border.

The massive expansion of the Border Patrol – including at least 5,000 new agents – promised by President Donald Trump hasn’t materialized yet. In fact, seven months later, the number of border agents in the field has dropped by more than 200 and on track to deported 10,000 fewer people in 2017 than in 2016, the L.A. Times reports.

That doesn’t mean there has not been a crackdown, however. Arrests of undocumented people have surged since January. Because the system is so overloaded, many detainees remain in immigration prisons without hearings.

The crackdown has been great for the private prison industry, which is booming under Trump as refugees and asylum-seekers languish in overcrowded facilities alongside people suspected of being in the country without documentation.

Politics, Tigers and Crime, Oh My!

Prosecutors have dropped charges against a former Tijuana Council member who had been accused of participating in a scheme to illegally smuggle funds into the United States through San Diego in order to launder them and then wire them back to Mexico. Luis Torres Santillán was arrested in December, less than a month after his swearing-in at Tijuana’s City Hall. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge, admitting he was an accessory to a crime and was sentenced to three years’ unsupervised probation and 20 days of volunteer work.

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Human bones from more than 120 people have been found in the Maclovio Rojas area of Tijuana. The remains are thought to have been buried there a decade ago, and the mass grave is thought to be connected to cartel activity, but as yet it is not known how they died or who buried them there.

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Around 25 Dreamers — undocumented young people living in the United States — were able to visit Mexico on a special permit for about three weeks in 2017. This is the sixth group in the past three years allowed to visit under a special permit to attend an academic course. The group is also given several days to spend time with their families who remain in Mexico. Until this year, the groups always visited Mexico City; this year, the students visited Colegio de la Frontera Norte in Tijuana.

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Haiti is looking to strengthen its partnership with Mexico on migration issues. Stéphanie Auguste, minister of Haitians Living Abroad, has requested a Diaspora Support Initiatives Project for Local and Regional Authorities that would, among other things, help establish a support network for Haitians now living in Mexico, reports Haiti Libre.

Mexico has been flooded over the past year with Haitian migrants, many of whom came seeking refuge in the United States but settled in Mexico as they endure long waits on word of asylum.

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A Bengal tiger was confiscated by authorities in Tijuana after it fell from a third-floor terrace onto a neighbor’s property. The animal was being kept in a residence “without proper facilities” and had not received adequate veterinary care, according to Mexico’s federal environmental watchdog agency, PROFEPA, reports the Union-Tribune. The nine-month-old female tiger was taken to a municipal zoo in Mexicali.

Arts and Culture

In Border Field State Park, a surfer and artist is making a subtle statement on the absurdity of borders.

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The Come Home Heroes concert, originally scheduled for Aug. 26 in Savannah, Ga., to raise money for the Deported Veterans Support House in Tijuana, has been canceled, citing lack of funds and sponsorship.

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Barrio Logan has held La Vuelta, a festival and informal car show, every other Wednesday throughout the summer. La Vuelta will culminate in a street fair this Saturday, Aug. 26, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. complete with live music, food and of course a whole parade of classic cars to showcase Barrio Logan’s car culture.

(Southern California’s lowrider culture, which spread across the country, originated in Mexico’s “paseo” but became an American tradition after it spread to San Diego.)

A Note …

This is my last time writing the Border Report roundup for Voice of San Diego before I hand the reins over to the extremely capable Mario Koran. I have truly enjoyed the job and will not leave the border, but the demands of my day job have become too great to do the quality of work that this extraordinary and important region deserves. You can stay in touch (and send story tips!) by emailing me at brooke.binkowski@gmail.com. Thank you very much, gracias, abrazos, y hasta la próxima vez!

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