The clock says it's barely 6:30 in the morning, and the reports from the international border of San Ysidro report over a thousand people who will be crossing the border on foot. With their coats on, coffee and a news paper in their hands, thousands of United States residents are hoping that the line moves a little bit quicker so they aren't late to work.
And it's because through the years, Tijuana has been becoming a true “dorm city” for those who work in the United States but because of the economic crisis, were forced to live in Mexico instead.
According to the North Border Institute, even though it's a phenomenon that's hard to measure, they estimate that around 50,000 and 70,000 people cross over to work in the United States daily, “they are called 'trans-border workers'” investigator Alonso Meneses explained.
“They earn their wages in dollars, and enjoy the benefits of the low rent costs and houses in Mexico, here in Mexico they can buy a house for half the price of what it costs in San Diego. That explains why so many workers say 'I want to work in San Diego and live in Tijuana'”.
Jonathan Mendoza is barely 23 years old, but has been getting up at 4:30 in the morning every day since he was 17, though first it was to get to school, now it's to get to work. He explains he always takes a shower and leaves his clothes ready since the night before, otherwise he doesn't have enough time.
He quickly turns off the alarm at 4:30 A.M. on the dot “sometimes it's hard to get up, waking up way too tired”. He rushes to get dressed, he has to be at the bus stop by 5:00 A.M. “An hour making it to the border, and around 6:00 am you have to be waiting in line”.
He works at a company that installs telephones in San Diego, but lives in Tijuana with his parents and brothers. He confesses that he could be able to afford rent in the United States if he worked some extra hours, but the day would be even shorter for him.
Don José works in construction in Chula Vista, he installs Sheetrock. He has been crossing the border daily through the San Yisidro port of entry for the last 20 years. He has to be on his small black pick up truck by 3:00 A.M.
He says he gets to work at 6:00 A.M. and although sometimes he crosses the border fairly quickly, he says it's a gamble: “When the line moves along quickly and I cross over early, I stay in a shopping mall parking lot and sleep for a while”.
Alfonso Meneses, which is an investigator for COLEF, considers that the cross over to San Diego can sometimes be a tragedy, since 9/11 and the recent remodeling of the San Ysidro port of entry, wait times can sometimes be up to 4 hours, if you add that crossing back into Mexico there are customs agents checking most vehicles, that's another 3 hours.
Young people like Jonathan say that they don't know if being born in the United States was a blessing or not, now they are destined to cross over daily for the rest of their lives. “Unless of course they make more than 4,000 dollars a month, this will likely be the case” Alfonso Meneses warns.