Current Dangers to returning Mexicans in the San Diego Port of Repatriation

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Introduction:

The purpose of this article is to examine the current security situation in the Tijuana area, the increased levels of violence and how this poses a danger to returning Mexicans who use the San Diego Port of Repatriation. Violence levels in Tijuana have increased greatly in the past year due to the increased activity of the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) in the area. The CJNG is by most accounts the most powerful cartel in Mexico and is involved in nearly every part of Mexico that is currently experiencing elevated violence. The CJNG has aggressively sought control of border plazas where illegal narcotics come into the United States. Recently, the CJNG has entered the scene in Tijuana in supporting the Cartel de Tijuana Nueva Generacion in an attempt to push the dominant Sinaloa Cartel out of the area. This conflict zone has resulted in significant increases in violence and instability which has a direct effect on returning Mexicans.

Repatriation Process:

When a Mexican is repatriated, they fall under local repatriation arrangements signed by both U.S. and Mexican government officials designed to strengthen the bilateral framework for the protection of Mexican citizens being returned to Mexico, improve the efficient use of limited resources, and increase coordination during the repatriation process [1].

When returning Mexicans repatriated, some take transportation away from the port of repatriation. However, the majority, because of limited means, are forced to live in the local area to work and formulate plans for the future. These returned Mexicans are vulnerable and are exposed to the violence endemic in the various repatriation areas.

Cartel Violence to Repatriated Mexicans

There has been a great deal of media reporting regarding returning Mexicans with long residences in the United States. Deportees, especially ones who have had a long time dwelling in the U.S., experience disorientation upon entering Mexico. This makes them vulnerable to a much greater extent by organized crime because they are unfamiliar with their surroundings [2]. The U.S. Government’s Congressional Research Service has expressed concern of the vulnerability that recent deportees face in Mexico due to extortion by criminal cartels and gangs [3].

The Los Angeles Times, among other news outlets, have reported extensively on the dangers deportees face. Criminal organizations have lookouts track new arrivals from the moment they enter Mexico. Gunmen intercept deportees at migrant shelters, buses, and outside money-transfer businesses. They hold them for ransom, recruit them into gangs, and sometimes assault, torture, and "disappear" them. Church-run shelters and social service groups, once safe ground, no longer are [4].

Recent returnees also face the threat of kidnapping due to the perception that friends and relatives who have money and live in the U.S. can be compelled to come to the aid of the deportee. Felipe Durand, an immigration expert at Mexico’s University of Guadalajara, told the Washington Post that “Kidnappers know that deportees have relatives and family members in the U.S. who can be extorted [5].”

Violence in Tijuana

For the last five years the CJNG has been rapidly expanding throughout Mexico. They have been fighting a multifront war in nearly all parts of Mexico in order to operate freely in more territory, control production supply lines, and dominate border cities along the US-Mexico corridors [6]. The CJNG has been focused in particular on Tijuana to drive out their primary regional rival, the Sinaloa Cartel and using the Cartel de Tijuana Nueva Generacion as their local surrogate. According to Wendy Fry of the San Diego Union Tribune, in 2019 there was over 2,000 homicides in Tijuana with 2020 looking to trend in a similar direction [7]. The state of Baja California has the second-highest murder rate for Mexican states 976.7 per 100,000) [8].

On top of the already heightened tensions between the warring cartels, the global pandemic of COVID-19 has led to a decrease in precursor chemicals for methamphetamine and fentanyl production and has thus increased the violence surrounding the control of these limited supplies.

Making matters worse is the splintering of some of the CJNG allies in Tijuana, with the “Los Cabos” crime group leaving the CJNG fold because of disagreements with the cartel’s new leadership structure. Experts expect the bloodshed both in Tijuana and in Northern Baja California to continue given the stakes involved in both securing the Tijuana corridor and the border drug-staging areas [9].

Conclusion

Violence levels in Tijuana have increased greatly in the past year due to the increased activity of the CGNG in Northern Baja California area. Many returning Mexicans who are forced to use the San Diego Port of Repatriation do not have the means to immediately leave the area. As a result, they are increasingly likely to become victims of the elevated violence which has characterized the area. The fear of kidnapping for ransom or human trafficking, extortion, and violence is a daily reality to those repatriated Mexicans who are forced to remain in Tijuana and there is no sign that these concerns will abate in the near term.

Endnotes:

[1] U.S. Department of Homeland Security, “Updated U.S.-Mexico Local Repatriation Agreements,” February 26, 2016, accessed at: https://www.dhs.gov/publication/upda...n-arrangements

[2] “In Tijuana, Mexicans Deported by U.S. Struggle to Find ‘Home,’” National Geographic News. Accessed at: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/n...mexico-border/ . See also: “Deported to Mexico, A Lost Generation.” The Guardian. Accessed at: http://www.theguardian.com/global/20...ration-america

[3] “Border Security: Immigration Enforcement Between Ports of Entry.” Congressional Research Service, April 19, 2016. Accessed at: https://fas.org/sgp/crs/homesec/R42138.pdf

[4] “Deportees to Mexico's Tamaulipas preyed upon by gangs,” Los Angeles Times, September 8, 2012. Accessed at: https://www.latimes.com/local/la-xpm...909-story.html

[5] “U.S. flying deportees deep into Mexico, over dangerous border,” Washington Post, July 31, 2013. Accessed at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world...=.ca900d6de29c

[6] Al Jazeera. “Mexico Murder Rate Hits Record High in 2019.” Mexico News | Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera, January 21, 2020. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/...053841365.html . See also: Evans, Zachary. “Mexican Homicide Rate Hits Record High in New President's First Year in Office.” National Review. National Review, January 21, 2020. https://www.nationalreview.com/news/...ear-in-office/

[7] Fry, Wendy. “Drug Violence Continues to Grip Tijuana, with Most Homicides of Any City in Mexico.” Tribune. San Diego Union-Tribune, January 6, 2020. https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com...e-numbers-2019

[8] STRATOR, “Tracking Mexico’s Cartels in 2020,” February 4, 2020 [paid subscription service].

[9] Insight Crime, “Internal Strife Within the CJNG in Baja California, Mexico, August 27, 2019, https://www.insightcrime.org/news/br...fornia-mexico/

About the Authors:

Robert Kirkland is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and operational Latin American Foreign Area Officer. He has a B.S. from the United States Military Academy, West Point and a M.A. and Ph.D. in Latin American history from the University of Pittsburgh. He also has a graduate certificate in Latin American Studies from the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. He has provided expert testimony on drug cartel and gang violence in Mexico and Central America since his retirement from the Army in 2014. He can be reached at info@robertkirklandconsulting.com

Duncan Breda is an investigator for the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command at Fort Bliss outside of El Paso, Texas. He is a graduate of St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas where he earned a BS in Criminology.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.


About The Author

Robert Kirkland Robert Kirkland is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and operational Latin American Foreign Area Officer. He has a B.S. from the United States Military Academy, West Point and a M.A. and Ph.D. in Latin American history from the University of Pittsburgh. He also has a graduate certificate in Latin American Studies from the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. He has provided expert testimony on drug cartel and gang violence in Mexico and Central America since his retirement from the Army in 2014. He can be reached at info@robertkirklandconsulting.com.