JACUMBA SPRINGS, Calif. (Border Report) — Several migrant camps remain active in the mountains east of San Diego near the town of Jacumba Springs, California.
The largest is called the Willows Camp, where daily, hundreds of migrants arrive and then wait for Border Patrol agents to pick them up.
“The numbers are really high over the past few weeks, I think we saw a peak of over 800 over Thanksgiving when people were staying for up to six days at a time,” said Attorney Erika Pinheiro, of Al Otro Lado, a binational migrant advocacy group.
Pinheiro says the migrants showing up at the camps have no choice.
“These are people who by and large do not have access to the asylum system through ports of entry; you can only access asylum through the port of entry with a CBP One appointment and that app is only available in English, Spanish and Creole,” said Pinheiro. “As you can see by the people around us, a lot of these individuals are from China or other countries that don’t speak those languages.”
Pinheiro expects migrants to keep showing up at these camps unless President Joe Biden changes policy allowing more asylum seekers to get processed at ports of entry.
“These asylum-seekers are dropped off here by organized crime groups, they cross the border, and they are forced to wait by Border Patrol, which tells them they will be deported if they leave these camps,” she said. “And it’s just become more chaotic because Border Patrol has reduced their physical presence in the camps.”
Through a statement, Border Patrol says it’s doing all it can.
“DHS continues to enforce United States immigration laws, expanding lawful pathways while strengthening enforcement consequences for those who cross our border unlawfully. Individuals and families without a legal basis to remain in the U.S. are subject to removal pursuant to CBP’s longstanding Title 8 authorities and are subject to a minimum five-year bar on reapplying for admission and potential criminal prosecution if they subsequently re-enter without authorization.
“CBP is leveraging all available resources and partnerships to efficiently vet and process migrants consistent with law. The agency continues to surge personnel, transportation, processing, and humanitarian resources to the most active and arduous areas throughout San Diego’s border region where migrants are callously placed by for-profit smuggling organizations, often without proper preparation.”
Pinheiro says the Border Patrol lacks of initiative. Still, she said, migrants are surviving thanks to the help from volunteers who provide food, water and even basic medical care.
But she worries with a drop in temperatures and other factors, asylum-seekers are in more danger than ever.
“A 13-year-old boy just died near one of these camps, and so I think it’s just a matter of time we see additional deaths in these camps unless something changes,” she said.
According to the Border Patrol, the boy was brought to the border boundary from Mexico and was already in need of medical attention.
“I heard maybe he had fallen or car accident, I honestly don’t know,” said Dr. Theresa Chang, a volunteer at the camp providing basic medical care for migrants.
She says was in the area last weekend when word of a boy needing help came down.
“You hear stories all the time about how dangerous the migration path is the migration journey is but to see it in person and to have the loss of life of someone who really had his whole future ahead of him is devastating,” chang said.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department put out a statement saying deputies responded to a call about a boy at the border who had been involved in a traffic accident south of the border:
“Deputies began their investigation and discovered the victim was injured in a vehicle accident while in Mexico. The victim was then taken to the border wall in the belief medical treatment would be received quicker than in Mexico. As deputies arrived at the scene, they discovered the victim had already been brought onto the U.S. side of the border and was being treated by medical personnel on scene. Despite not having any vital signs, medical personnel attempted CPR in an attempt to revive the juvenile. Unfortunately, the 13-year-old boy passed. The Medical Examiner’s office responded to the scene and took over the investigation.