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By Bransen P. Harper

Photos by Bransen P. Harper and Patrick J. Watkins

April 3, 2024 (Jacumba Hot Springs) -- Last week, I took a journey out east to a hotspot along the border where undocumented migrants cross over into the U.S. on a daily basis, near the small town of Jacumba Hot Springs and Desert View Tower. International border crossings here have increased over the last couple of years significantly, although the area has seen prevalent human traffic in prior decades.

Using a Google translation program and translators among the migrants,  program, my associate,  Patrick J. Watkins, and I interviewed and photographed several undocumented migrants, whose stories were interesting and diverse. We also spoke with local volunteers aiding the asylum-seekers.

On our drive out there, we spotted a large tent camp equipped with portable bathrooms on the side of Interstate 8 east. We pulled in to talk to several of the people. Armed with a microphone and vlogging tripod, we were able to talk to one of the leaders of local volunteers aiding the migrants, an older yet notable gentleman named Samuel Schultz. In his cowboy hat, while sitting beside a fire pit, Sam told us that community volunteers here have supplied migrants with food and water for many months now. A GoFundMe page started by Schultz to aid Jacumba’s migrants has raised more than $52,000.

He recounted that he had seen people migrate from all over the world, with people from numerous nationalities and creeds arriving near Jacumba Hot Springs.

 “Every day is different,” Schultz told us.  “There were about 50 Chinese here in the morning…These guys here look like Columbians.” He reiterated that people from many diverse backgrounds including from the Middle East, Africa and Latin-America have arrived as well. When asked how exactly the Border Patrol plays a part in this operation he stated, “They say that these people are not being detained here. Even though they tell them to come here and tell them to wait here…and if they leave, then they will not be able to get asylum.”

Initially the Border Patrol set up three large camps, but two have been mostly taken down in recent weeks, since increased media coverage highlighting the border crisis. The camps numbered at least 400-500 people consistently throughout the day, with crossings of possibly hundreds happening multiple times a day but primarily occurring in the morning, Schultz said. He stated that the migrants had been coming in droves from around a large mountain by La Rumorosa, a small Mexican town near the larger city of Tecate.

We wanted to hear stories directly from the migrants.

First, we spoke with a group of young men from Turkey named Selim, Hasan and Muhammad, who all seemed to be in their mid-20s or early 30s. The talkative group seemed very jovial and stated that they had all come separately from different parts of Turkey. They fled due to the increasingly fierce political oppressive climate that is occurring in Turkey due to the policies of current strongman President Erdogan.

When asked about why they had decided to make the long journey to America at this exact moment, Muhammad stated, “I like Biden. Biden seems welcoming to us.” They said that the job market was not the best currently in Turkey and some had faced job layoffs, even though they previously had good careers such as in IT and computing, office jobs and even a highly-skilled engineer at a Rolls Royce factory. This all came to a surprise, as we had not expected migrants to come from a more developed European country such as Turkey.

They hope to continue their careers in America, where they believe that there will be more opportunities. But to be granted asylum generally requires a claim of credible fear, so economic migrants’ dreams often end in deportation.

Photo, left:  Gap in border wall through rugged terrain, where undocumented migrants are crossing over near Jacumba.

Not all of the people that we were able to talk to were from developed countries, however. Gladiz, a 45-year-old Honduran migrant, recounted the long and difficult journey to get here and said that despite concerns, she and her family were able to be shepherded across the border successfully.

“I fear that I cannot return to my birth country because if I do, I will be persecuted, ”Gladiz said.  She added, “That is the reason why all of my family had to relocate here with me. I fear that we will never return.”

 Other fellow Hondurans similarly claimed they fled from the lack of economic opportunities but remained worried for family members who did not make the strenuous journey, due to fear of retribution from their authoritarian-leaning government.

Next, we spoke with members of a small migrant family from Portugal. They said that they had been traveling for 10 days and had taken flights from Lisbon to Cancun, Cancun to Mexico City, and then finally to Tijuana, after which they took a bus to Tecate.

After that, people armed with guns and other weapons (allegedly members of cartels involved in trafficking over the border, according to an aid worker and another reporter at the scene) had escorted them over to the border, where they had simply hopped over a small hole in the wall before being guided over to the camp by Border Patrol.

We corroborated this story with another young man who fled from Russia, Amir,  who stated, “There were guys with guns… with silencers.” He continued, “They were probably the cartel,” when asked  who helped to escort him and others across the border.

Photo, right: Amir, a Russian immigrant, says he fled to the U.S. after being assaulted and ordered to support Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Amir said that he escaped Russia due to what he believed to be an “unjust war of terror” on Ukraine. He decided to immigrate to New York City, where he has family already waiting for him. While in Russia, he said he was attacked by a group of armed thugs who demanded that he pledge allegiance to Russian President Vladimir Putin and support the war effort in Ukraine. Amir told us that he fears, “Putin will begin to draft other local minorities within the Russian Federation,” such as in the industrial town of Lipetsk, which is close to his family’s Uzbeki roots of central Asia. His claim of persecution and fear of retribution may give him the strongest case for receiving political asylum, of the people we interviewed.

Later, we got more chances to explore the border itself and attempted to talk to some Asian migrants, primarily Chinese, who have been arriving in the thousands for the last couple of months. They have been divided and speedily taken away from the rest of the migrants by Border  Patrol.

When we had a chance to finally communicate with them, some confirmed they were from China but said they did not want to be interviewed, then walked away. We got the implication from some of them that somebody had given them explicit orders not to utter a single word. During one recording, when we walked into a tent full of predominantly Chinese-speaking migrants, they  all scattered; one man pulled his red cap down, obscuring his face, and ran off. This contrasted with the rest of the migrants, who mostly seemed very friendly and open to telling us their plights, including why and how they came to America.

All of these migrants, whether seeking jobs, freedom from war or persecution, hope to find safety and security within the United States of America ,while also being aware of the necessity of successful assimilation into the “Land of the Free.”



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Illegal Aliens

Another comment on this propaganda piece. Biden's "No Borders" policy is obviously funding and enriching the Mexican Cartels. ALL these people came through Mexico. Did your "reporter" happen to ask how much these people paid the cartels to get here? A balanced story should have included that question.

CORRECTION: Illegal ALIENS , not immigrants!

They have been coached well. This is wrong on so many levels. Looking for a better economic opportunity is NOT a valid, legal reason for asylum. And that is the case for the majority of these people violating our immigration laws that have be destroyed by the lunatic President who's ONLY concern is to develop a future Democrat voter base. And don't forget the ones that are coming here to do harm in this country. I assume you that support this insanity are sponsoring an Immigrant in your home as you and so many others support this dangerous insanity.