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Tijuana Border Crossers Stranded in San Ysidro

November 25, 2018

By Mario A. Cortez

Mario A. Cortez | La Prensa San Diego

Maria Garcia checked her phone impulsively, looking for an answer to a pressing question.

“They say they didn’t close down the Otay crossing, but the Trolley isn’t running and there are no busses that can take me there and nobody knows when the exit will open here,” said Garcia, who crossed from Tijuana to the United States to take advantage of black friday sales at a border-adjacent mall. “I don’t even know what to do.”

Garcia was one of hundreds of border crossers from Tijuana who found themselves temporarily stranded in San Ysidro after U.S. authorities shut down activity at pedestrian and vehicular ports of entry going into and out of the United States last Sunday, Nov. 25.

The halt in operations came after a large group from the refugee caravan in Tijuana marched towards the El Chaparral border checkpoint in Mexico. From this larger contingent, a smaller group broke off and ran towards the United States side of the border, inciting a hostile response from armed Customs and Border Protection agents.

The shutdown, which started at 11:30 a.m., left many confused as to why they could not return home.

Jorge Olvera’s plans of kicking back at home after work were struck out with the closing of the border.

“I don’t know what the hell happened that they closed it,” he said. “I don’t know if the caravan people jumped the wall or if they straight up closed the border like (it was rumored by people) this week but this sucks.”

Others, such as Ramon, who asked to only be identified by his first name, and his wife chose to return to family members instead of waiting for the border to reopen.

“We’re seeing where my daughter can pick us up to return to her house; it’s pointless to wait here if they aren’t opening the border in a little bit,” stated Ramon, who spent Thanksgiving weekend with his eldest daughter in Chula Vista.

As these residents of the border waited, there was no other choice but to remain along sidewalks near the pedestrian exit port. At the southern end of San Ysidro Boulevard many gathered at the final street corner before reaching Mexico, many looking at the military helicopters flying overhead while others searched for more information about the closing on their phones.

Mario A. Cortez | La Prensa San Diego

Along the bridges connecting San Ysidro’s West and East districts, many curiously watched the highly transited freeways which lead to ports of entry stay clear of cars.

“When have you seen no cars down there or passing by? It’s really weird isn’t it?” said Perla Lopez, who also took advantage of Black Friday deals at San Ysidro malls.

At 3:45, over four hours later, operations resumed at pedestrian ports of entry in both directions, putting an end to the limbo Tijuana residents stranded in San Ysidro found themselves in.

Southbound lanes into Mexico’s port of entry reopened at 5 p.m. with northbound crossings resuming minutes later.

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