Border Crisis a ‘Shell Game,’ Critics Say

Border Crisis a ‘Shell Game,’ Critics Say

Migrants station themselves at an encampment after crossing the United States border in Jacumba, Calif., on Feb. 3, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Brad Jones

Brad Jones

4/29/2024

Updated: 4/30/2024

Atop a mountain overlooking the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego County near the small town of Campo, a few tents, ramshackle shelters, and water bottles tell the tale of America’s ongoing illegal immigration crisis.
The border wall slopes down the mountainside and “suddenly stops” near an old train trestle and tunnel, said local resident Cory Gautereaux, motioning towards the valley below.
Non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, which are funded by the government, provide the water and tents for illegal immigrants at the taxpayers’ expense, he said.
The hotspots where illegal immigrants cross keep changing depending on the intensity of media exposure and political heat the state and federal government receive, Mr. Gautereaux said.
“It’s a shell game,” he said.
Several U.S. Border Patrol agents who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, told The Epoch Times in mid-April that the hotspots shift from place to place, but the illegal immigrants keep crossing every day.

Governor Defends Policies

While California Gov. Gavin Newsom toured one of three known illegal border crossing sites near the town of Jacumba Hot Springs, about 70 miles east of San Diego on March 1, where the flow of migrants had waned due to the presence of Mexican Army and Mexican National Guard (Guardia Nacional) troops stationed at the border wall, Epoch Times reporters observed dozens of migrants entering the U.S. at known illegal border crossings the same day, the day before, and the day after his visit, with hundreds more illegal immigrants released at the Iris transit center in San Ysidro.
The governor has defended President Joe Biden’s handling of the border crisis and touted $650 million in new funding for federal grants for “humanitarian and security” efforts at the southern border. But, critics say the money isn’t being spent to stop illegal immigration but to pay NGOs.
Nearly 10 million illegal immigrants have entered the country during the Biden administration, according to the latest U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data.
The governor’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the illegal immigration crisis and his recent tour to the border wall.
The Mexican troops were stationed in some areas along the border wall near Jacumba in early February after the Biden administration met with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
But Mr. Gautereaux said he used a thermal scope to see in the dark and noticed they would abandon their posts at night, allowing migrants to pass.
“There was always a couple of guys ahead of the group which is usually the cartel or whoever is facilitating this. They’ll come through first to check on things,” he said.
One night, he said, two men approached the Mexican troops, and about five minutes later a group of about 100 illegal immigrants crossed.
“They’re working together,” he said.
Cory Gautereaux and his dog look at a recent repair done along the United States border wall outside of Campo, Calif., on April 12, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Cory Gautereaux and his dog look at a recent repair done along the United States border wall outside of Campo, Calif., on April 12, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Mexican cartel members drive SUV's containing dozens of migrants race to an open gap in the United States border wall near Jacumba, Calif., on Dec. 6, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Mexican cartel members drive SUV's containing dozens of migrants race to an open gap in the United States border wall near Jacumba, Calif., on Dec. 6, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Discarded IDs, Passports

“When I moved down here, we didn’t really have a huge immigration problem. We had the normal immigration problem that we all know about,” Mr. Gautereaux said.
But in the last year, he said, the situation has changed drastically.
“We started getting droves of people from all different countries coming through here,” he said. “One of my neighbors told me there was a large group of people walking down the freeway, and I went down to check it out.”
Over time, he discovered illegal immigrants were leaving a trail of discarded items at illegal border crossing sites including cell phones, credit cards, identification cards, and passports, and he began collecting them.
“We all know if you’re on vacation and you lose your passport that’s the worst possible thing that can happen. They’re just leaving them on the ground, which is insane,” he said.
Mr. Gautereaux has since mounted hundreds of these IDs and passports, some which are “obviously fake,” on his garage walls, and said he has many more that he hasn’t displayed.
Some are tattered, torn or scorched around the edges.
“A lot of them are burns,” he said. “They try to burn them, or they rip them up.”
He wonders why—if they are coming to the U.S. on legitimate asylum claims—are illegal immigrants discarding these documents.
“They drop their IDs, and then we have no idea who they are once they get picked up by Border Patrol,” he said. “Why are they trying to hide who they are? What are they hiding?”
Most of the documents belong to Chinese nationals, along with many from Turkey, South and Central America, and some from Cuba and the Dominican Republic.
Cory Gautereaux looks through discarded ID cards found near the U.S. border wall in Pine Valley, Calif., on April 12, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Cory Gautereaux looks through discarded ID cards found near the U.S. border wall in Pine Valley, Calif., on April 12, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Border Patrol agents monitor the southern border using ATVs outside of Campo, Calif., on April 12, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Border Patrol agents monitor the southern border using ATVs outside of Campo, Calif., on April 12, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

‘They’re Hiding It’

Border Patrol agents at different illegal crossing sites in the county told The Epoch Times the federal government continues to allow thousands of illegal immigrants into the country every day while denying it has implemented an “open border” policy.
“They’re hiding it,” said one agent.
The border crisis, he said, is intentional, and agents have grown weary of processing illegal immigrants with bogus asylum claims.
“It shouldn’t be happening at all,” he said.
At Otay Mountain, just east of Tijuana—a day before the governor’s tour—Epoch Times reporters witnessed dozens of illegal immigrants, including some from China, crossing at an unfinished part of the wall.
Near the base of the mountain, a group of about 20—including several from the Republic of Guinea in West Africa—waited to give themselves up to Border Patrol, while several others who evaded apprehension were seen walking away alongside the freeway towards San Diego.
Earlier this month, at what is known as the W-8 or Whiskey-8 site in the Tijuana River Valley in San Diego, a woman who appeared to be in her thirties stood weeping between the primary and secondary border walls waiting to surrender to Border Patrol agents.
The same day as Mr. Newsom’s border tour to Jacumba, Epoch Times reporters observed dozens of migrants from Guatemala, Brazil, Peru, and Jamaica at this spot. And although the area between these walls has been called “no man’s land,” it isn’t. It’s all on U.S. soil, Border Patrol sources said.
Amy Reichert, founder of Restore San Diego, stands near the United States border wall in San Diego, Calif., on April 11, 2024 (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Amy Reichert, founder of Restore San Diego, stands near the United States border wall in San Diego, Calif., on April 11, 2024 (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

‘Restore San Diego’

Amy Reichert, the founder of Restore San Diego, a citizen’s watchdog group, said more San Diegans are realizing there is an “open border” even though those who dared say as much two years ago were “scolded” and told there was “no such thing.”
The illegal immigration problem is obvious in a border city like San Diego but less noticed the farther north you go in California where, she said, some cities seem more concerned about “banning plastic bags and Styrofoam containers from restaurants” than the border crisis.
“There are people who have no idea what’s happening,” she said. “And, if you ask them about the border, they say it’s a right-wing conspiracy theory that we have open borders.”
Normally, people will say the border crisis doesn’t really impact them or that illegal immigrants just want a better life but, she asked, “at whose expense?”
“It’s completely bankrupting San Diego County,” she said.
The county paid $6 million to South Bay Community Services, an NGO operating a “migrant welcome center” at a closed school in San Diego’s City Heights neighborhood from Oct. 11 last year to Feb. 22. But, the organization shut down operations when the San Diego County Board of Supervisors cut off funding, resulting in thousands of migrants being released at various transit centers, including Iris station in San Ysidro, El Cajon, and Oceanside.
Ms. Reichert said leftover COVID relief funds were used to pay an organization that provided illegal immigrants with food, temporary shelter, and transportation, including same-day airfare to cities of their choice.
Funding allocated for services to American citizens, she said, should not be spent on accommodating people who’ve entered the country illegally.
“I think it’s wrong,” she said.
Ms. Reichert, who has toured the border from the coast to Boulevard, Calif., about 65 miles east of San Diego, said she saw hundreds of migrants crossing illegally at gaps along the border wall in late December.
She, like Mr. Gautereaux, said they are discarding or destroying their IDs to conceal their identities and enter the U.S. as “undocumented migrants.”
“It’s a national security threat when you have people entering the United States, and they’re destroying evidence of their country of origin and their identities,” she said. “We have no idea who is entering our country.”
She blames the Biden administrations for relegating Border Patrol agents to processing clerks.
“They are acting like greeters,” she said.
Illegal immigrants gather after crossing the U.S. border wall in Jacoumba, Calif., on Jan. 10, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Illegal immigrants gather after crossing the U.S. border wall in Jacoumba, Calif., on Jan. 10, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Chinese migrants settle at Willow Camp before being processed by Border Patrol agents in Jacumba, Calif., on Dec. 6, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Chinese migrants settle at Willow Camp before being processed by Border Patrol agents in Jacumba, Calif., on Dec. 6, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Chinese Migrants

In December, amid a record surge of illegal immigrants, Ms. Reichert said she noticed a group of East Asian migrants who stood out from the crowd.
“They were Chinese nationals. They had very nice carry-on baggage. They looked like they had just gotten off an airplane because they had,” she said.
Most illegal immigrants from China arrive at the Tijuana Airport, usually from Cancun, and pay human smugglers working for the Mexican cartels to drive them to “the middle of the desert,” where there are gaps along the border wall, she said.
A Border Patrol agent said about 150 illegal immigrants from China arrive daily in the San Diego area alone.
“San Diego is a hotspot for Chinese migrants,” he said.

‘Epicenter’ of Illegal Migration

On April 23, there were nearly 13,000 illegal immigrants in custody nationwide and more than 3,000 in the San Diego sector alone, according to Border Patrol sources.
CBP Chief Patrol Agent Patricia McGurk-Daniel posted on X (formerly Twitter) that San Diego apprehended 8,959 illegal immigrants in the week ending April 16, surpassing the Tucson sector by 2,400 arrests.
“San Diego is the new epicenter for migrants and illegal immigration,” County Supervisor Jim Desmond said in an April 25 statement.
Since Oct. 1, the San Diego sector has witnessed a staggering 214,855 apprehensions of illegal immigrants from more than 70 countries and more than 30,000 migrants released to the streets in the last two months, according to Mr. Desmond.
And, on April 24 alone, the Border Patrol apprehended nearly 2,000 illegal immigrants, including 206 Chinese nationals in the San Diego sector, he said.
First reponders work together in extracting two bodies found in the Tijuana River outside of San Diego, Calif., on Feb. 22, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

First reponders work together in extracting two bodies found in the Tijuana River outside of San Diego, Calif., on Feb. 22, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Bodies Found

Sometimes illegal immigrants drown crossing the Tijuana River or die from head injuries caused by falling from the 30-foot border walls between San Diego and Tijuana, one Border Patrol agent told The Epoch Times.
While the Mexican Army and cartels exchange gunfire, most of the violence in Mexico occurs between local cartel leaders known as plaza bosses—and anyone who challenges them, he said.
The plaza bosses sometimes throw headless corpses of their victims into sewers that run into the Tijuana River, and during heavy rains the bodies are washed downstream to San Diego, the agent said.
On Feb. 6, a 61-year-old migrant from West Africa drowned crossing the river during heavy rains, according to authorities. He was found face-down in the river near Dairy Mart Road and Camino de la Plaza.
On Feb. 12, the San Diego Police Department reported the “suspicious death” of a man found “partially inside” a burning van at the nearby Tijuana River Valley Sports Complex on Sunset Avenue.
And on Feb. 22, authorities recovered two more bodies—both Hispanic males—in the same area of the river near a bridge on Dairy Mart Road in San Ysidro, according to police.
One body was found to have “trauma to his upper body, indicating he had been the victim of a homicide,” according to San Diego Medical Examiner’s office.

Drug Seizures

CBP officials announced in early April the agency has launched Operation Plaza Spike, a plan to target cartels and disrupt operations in the “plazas” directly south of the border to curb the flow of fentanyl from Mexico into American communities.
On April 24, CBP reported that 102 pounds of methamphetamine and seven pounds were seized by agents following a vehicle stop along Interstate 5.
From April 15 to 21, authorities seized more than 1.1 million fentanyl pills and 523 pounds of meth across San Diego County and the border, Gov. Newsom said in an April 23 statement.
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Brad Jones

Brad Jones

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Brad Jones is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California.

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