TIJUANA (Border Report) — The city of Tijuana has put a fence along the pedestrian pathway that leads up to the San Ysidro Port of Entry to prevent any more migrants from camping out.
Dozens of Ukrainian and Russian migrants were living at the site until last weekend when the city convinced them to move to hotels.
Earlier this month, the migrants had laid out blankets, sleeping bags and chairs, and had created a makeshift campsite just south of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection checkpoint.
The city said the migrants were interfering with operations at the port of entry and getting in the way of thousands of border commuters who walk into the U.S. on a daily basis.
And the migrants were also reportedly getting sick from being out in the cold and rain.
“The goal of the chain-link fence is to create order and prevent another camp from being set up,” said Tijuana Mayor Montserrat Caballero. “We recently had a big issue with another camp nearby and now we had this one.”
The mayor said the fence is not a symbol of anti-immigrant sentiments in her city.
“It is very clear to migrants that they are very welcome here,” she said.
People who use the crossing regularly, including Maria Medrano, seemed to think the fence was a good idea.
“It’s good so people who want to enter the U.S. illegally can’t get in the way,” Medrano said.
Maria Luisa Sanchez agreed, saying, “I think it’s great because sometimes people keep getting in, then going out, then coming back creating a bottleneck.”
The city of Tijuana says it is assigning 24 additional police officers to the crossing to prevent any more migrants from setting up camp.
“We’re trying to avoid another big camp to set up impeding operations since we already have the other pedestrian crossing closed, if we had to close this one down it would be tragic,” said Tijuana Chief of Police Fernando Sanchez. “We’ve seen an increase in the number of Russian and Ukrainian citizens arriving in Tijuana, we know they are in our city with the intent to come to the border and ask for asylum.”
Early last month, dozens of police officers and Mexican National Guard troops dismantled a makeshift campsite in the same area and moved 371 migrants to shelters.
The migrants, almost all Mexican nationals, were awakened and told to vacate as crews moved in with heavy equipment to break down 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.