TIJUANA (Border Report) — In recent weeks, tons of debris and trash have been cleaned out of the Tijuana River channel just south of the border between San Diego and Tijuana, but Baja California’s Gov. Jaime Bonilla says the job is not done yet.
He has ordered Tijuana Police to evict the homeless from the area, saying it’s dangerous and unsafe.
But others say Bonilla sees the vagrants as a problem, responsible for most of the crime near the San Ysidro Port of Entry where many Americans and others have reported items being snatched from their cars as they wait in line.
Stories of people blocking traffic lanes until they’re paid off are also common lore.
The area is also known as a place where cartels sell and manufacture drugs such as fentanyl.
In recent days, police officers have been busy removing people from the area, but Arturo Lopez, who lives in the channel says he and his neighbors are not the issue.
“They should just leave us alone and let us work, it’s not that bad,” Lopez said.
He has lived here for four years and says the police and politicians are exaggerating the problems.
“It’s kind of tranquil here, it’s peaceful,” Lopez said.
For many years, there have been attempts to clear out people like Lopez from the river channel, but the problem always seems to linger.
The head of the state’s water department, Salomón Faz Apodaca, said they believe as many as a thousand people live along the banks of the river channel, most of them near the international border.
“Almost all the tunnels and culverts are inhabited by people. This is not only a homeless problem but one of addiction and health concerns,” Faz Apodaca said.
Lopez admits there are people with drug problems but according to him not as many as people think.
“Soon all the people who have been cleared out will return, they always do,” he said.