The police raids and the beginning of the Tijuana river cleanup, have caused immigrants and homeless people to look for a new place to spend the night. Their options have been reduced to a camp for deported immigrants or sleeping under cars in the downtown area.
Dozens of orange tinted sleeping tents announce the presence of the “Deported immigrant camp”, which is located by the side of the International Avenue inside the Benito Juarez Plaza.
Sergio Tamai Quintero, coordinator for the organization “Angels without Borders”, explains that the idea of installing a camp for deported immigrants came up after the evictions that were enforced by the police and military in the Tijuana River; where hundreds of deportees have been left stranded here in this northern city.
According to the organization's estimate, there have been over 300 people requesting a place to sleep since the camp was installed. This is because after the raids, some have opted to sleep under cars.
Jaime is a blue eyed, white haired man who was living in a make-shift house in “el Bordo” for the past 2 years. He was deported from Los Angeles after practically living there all his life, 63 years living in the United States.
He moved to the “Deported Immigrant camp” after the police raids that occurred on August 7th: “it was a fight we could not win against them, but had they given us a choice we wouldn't have been there in the first place”.
He says they are now fighting to earn respect, because not all of them are drug addicts or alcoholics, “they took us out of 'el Bordo' and told us they would be taking us to shelters, that never happened. But to be fair there is a great difference, there we would be suffering, there wasn't any food or anything”.
He remembers that the first nights he would crawl under the cars parked outside the firemen station in the downtown area, “I had to hide because if the police saw me, they would take me in”. He placed a cardboard sheet under a car in search for a safe place, then he just laid down and fell asleep.
Jaime assures that some of the immigrants who aren't getting the opportunity to sleep in the tents keep sleeping under cars in the downtown area; they were all evicted by police and military, as well as CONAGUA since the announcement of the river clean up, but nobody offered them a place to go.
Robert Marquez is another immigrant that was deported, he had only been in Tijuana for a couple of months, and like many other deportees he made his home in “el bordo”. In one of the eviction raids he was arrested and taken to the penitentiary.
“When I came back there was nothing, the machines they're using to clean had buried all my belongings, my memories, my papers, they didn't let me take anything”, the laments of a man who had been living for 35 years in the United States.
That day was when he found out about the immigrant camp, he saw dozens of orange tents and a sign that said “Deported immigrant camp”. He went to check it out and he was glad that someone was providing food and a place to sleep.
“This is the best, I finally sleep at ease because, do you really think that I liked living at 'el Bordo'? Of course not! the only thing I wanted was a place to sleep, to really rest after trying to get work all day”
Other evicted immigrants have moved to Playas de Tijuana. They explain that one of the shelters is located at the edge of the boardwalk, some deportees went there for the first few days, however most of them have returned to “el Bordo” and to the immigrant camp.
Sergio Tamai, also founder of the Immigrant Hotel in Mexicali, explained that the funding used to maintain the camp in Tijuana, are product of collections done in the state capital.
However the idea is that all three levels of government turn around and take a good hard look at the people arriving at the camp, so they can provide alternatives for shelter or even provide funding to install a new immigrant hotel, but this time in Tijuana.