TIJUANA (Border Report) — Dozens of police officers and Mexican National Guard troops arrived at a makeshift campsite about 4:30 a.m. Sunday to move 371 migrants to shelters and clear the area just south of the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
The migrants, almost all Mexican nationals, were awakened and told to vacate as crews moved in with heavy equipment to dismantle and haul away tents, tarps and other materials used as shelters.
The camp had been in place for almost a year, and it’s estimated that at its peak last summer, there were around 2,000 migrants living here.
Tijuana Mayor Montserrat Caballero said they decided to clear out the camp for the sake of the children, stating they were living in unsanitary conditions.
One reporter asked her why it was done before the crack of dawn and without warning, but Monserrat said the operation was planned days in advance and the migrants were aware they were going to be moved to shelters.
“That’s why everything was peaceful and orderly,” she said. “As mayor of the city of Tijuana, I have to make firm decisions … the wellbeing of the children, pregnant women and seniors there is not a game, something that shouldn’t be left to chance.”
But a migrant named Dora Alicia Chavez said she had no idea it was going to happen.
“It’s not fair what they are doing to us, all the people here have great needs,” she said.
Chavez was also upset over the way crews were handling her belongings.
“They are putting all my clothing in a pile and are going to dispose of them like trash, including my tent, which I just got last Monday.”
Other migrants like Melchor, who is from the Mexican state of Michoacan, said the camp had been his home for the last 10 months and was not pleased about having to relocate.
“They’ve offered us shelters, but since shelters are temporary, they will force us out in 15 days,” he said.
The city and state have said they are also offering the migrants a chance to go back home at no cost to them.
But Melchor and others say their lives are in danger should they go back.
“I had a house, a business and a good life, don’t you think I want to go back, but it’s not an option.”
After most of the migrants were taken by bus and shuttles to shelters, crews collected the remaining trash and debris while spraying and disinfecting the area.
Not all migrants went to shelters, as some were seen walking away on their own after refusing help from the officials.
National Guard troops remained in place to protect cleanup crews and to make sure the migrants didn’t return, according to the city of Tijuana.
The camp was lodged on a plaza located at the exit and entrance point to Ped West, a pedestrian crossing at the San Ysidro Port of Entry that has been closed for most of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There is speculation that since the camp is gone, the facility will reopen in near future.
“We’ve been in communication with the United States since we knew this operation was going to happen at some point,” Caballero said.
But neither Caballero nor anyone from Mexico or the U.S. has confirmed whether Ped West is getting ready to open in the near future.
Migrants started arriving at the site almost a year ago when President Joe Biden declared the Migrant Protection Protocols program, also known as “Remain in Mexico,” would end and people enrolled in the program would be allowed to come to the United States.
Most migrants at the camp were not enrolled in the program and were deemed ineligible.
Nevertheless, many held on to the notion Biden would eventually open the border to all migrants and many chose to stay at the camp wanting to be “first in line” close to the border.