By Rebecca Person
Photos by Rebecca Person and photographers who asked to be anonymous
October 1, 2023 (San Diego’s East County) -- Waves of border crossers quietly filter into the high desert towns of Jacumba Hot Springs and Boulevard in the farthest eastern corner of San Diego County.
Local residents and volunteers there respond with rounds of water and supplies. Surprisingly, many locals are unaware of the human drama unfolding all around them. Some who do encounter bands of migrants on back country roads use caution, fearing arrest for assisting illegal border crossers.
The US/Mexico border fence stretches over miles of bleak terrain - pictured here at Jacumba Hot Springs, a favorite location where migrants cross.
People are gathering at three main locations on the outskirts of these sparsely populated towns. Border Patrol agents, volunteers bringing food, water and items for constructing shade and weather protection, and concerned residents witness larger and larger groups arriving daily. Questions arise as to how this many people in seemingly good shape are getting to such remote places. Rumors have it that they are bussed in from Tijuana, aided by paid cartel members, though this has not been verified.
A masked migrant (left) scales the massive border security fence undeterred by swirls of barbed\ wire and a 30-foot drop to hard dirt below.
A man protecting his identity with a t-shirt (below right) helps migrants mount a ladder on the Mexican side.
On the U.S. side of the border fence, migrants scramble to the ground as the rest of their group waits a turn to cross.
A group of migrants (below left) prepares to scale the border fence.
Border Patrol vehicles on the U.S. side (right) monitor the activities of border crossers and wait for transport vans to take them to processing facilities in San Diego.
Husband and wife team Sam and Gabrielle Schultz (left) prepare hundreds of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in an effort to feed growing crowds of migrants.
Volunteers comprised of local residents and humanitarian organizations like Border Kindness bring small meals, bottles of water, donated blankets and jackets to the new arrivals. Most migrants don’t speak English, and originate from many countries - Columbia, Venezuela, China. Two young men were the only people from India among a recent group of over 300.
The neatly dressed crowds equipped with backpacks, phones and many with money and credit cards, do suffer the heat and exposure in the harsh desert environment - some ask for cigarettes.
Shelters against harsh desert sun and wind are made from brush, donated clothing and tarps as migrants await transport. Daytime temperatures here can still be in the 90s, becoming cold at night.
A continuous stream of migrants makes it harder for Border Patrol and volunteers to keep up. One of the larger groups, over 350 people, waits patiently as water and food are handed out after they have made it to the US side.
A volunteer from Imperial Valley (right helps migrants lining up for bottles of water and sandwiches.
As the only two people from India in a group of over 300, these young men (left), previously strangers, have formed a close friendship.
The border security fence, shown here near Jacumba, is an imposing 30´structure of steel, with built-in sensors. An imposing sight, situated in rugged terrain, the fence proves a challenge. Yet many are scaling it in hopes of good fortune.
A midnight pickup by Border Patrol vans (below) at Valley of the Moon in San Diego’s backcountry reflects round-the-clock efforts to keep up with increasing numbers of border crossers bound for processing facilities, and their eventual release into the US population as they await court dates far in the future.