TIJUANA (Border Report) — Tijuana police say two migrants were stoned to death on Saturday as they were about to climb the border barrier into San Diego.

A third migrant was shot but survived.

Investigators say witnesses told them the victims were killed by a group of smugglers who are known to work in the area.

No arrests have been made.

Police say the victims were killed by “repeated blows to the head with rocks.” The third migrant remains in critical condition at Tijuana’s General Hospital.

“No one can go through there unless a payment has been made,” said Soraya Vazquez, a human rights attorney based in Tijuana. “The border barrier on the Mexico side has become a domain owned by cartels.”

Soraya Vazquez is a human rights attorney who works for Al Otro Lado, a group that provides legal services and support for migrants in Tijuana. (Jorge Nieto/Special for Border Report)

Vazquez says violence against migrants is nothing new, but not to the level seen in recent months.

“What’s worrisome is now you’re seeing intentional events brought on by cartels to exert their power along the border,” she said.

Vazquez and others believe the attack was a message by smugglers to intimidate migrants.

“Maybe in this case they didn’t have the money or resources to pay the fee,” said Dr. Jose Ramos with Tijuana’s Colegio de la Frontera Norte.

Ramos said the fee smugglers charge is anywhere from $7,000-$8,000.

“We’re talking about people who are very vulnerable with not a lot of income or savings,” he said. “These migrants were on their way to the United States who got caught in the power struggle between rival gangs for control of the smuggling into the United States.”

Migrants like Juan Corona have heard about what happened to the two men and worry they might be next.

“Tijuana has become too violent and unsafe for migrants,” said Corona in Spanish.

Juan Corona is a migrant staying at a Tijuana shelter. (Jorge Nieto/Special for Border Report)

Corona told Border Report he is not sure how or when he will cross the border. For now, he is waiting to set up an asylum interview through the CBP One app set up by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Until he can get an appointment, he says he has no plans of going anywhere afraid he’ll be assaulted or kidnapped by people who prey on migrants.

“I’m afraid of getting shot,” said Corona.

Coincidentally, a few days ago, he almost caught a bullet when members of a cartel sprayed his shelter with bullets nearly missing him, his nephew and others inside.

“We had to dive out of the way, a woman almost dropped her baby on its head, it was scary.”

Vazquez says it’s hard to keep track of statistics involving crimes against migrants because police don’t always investigate nor does it document every case.

And she also said that out of fear, many migrants don’t report it when they become victims of crime.

“There’s a lot of fear right now among migrants,” said Corona.