Homeless deportees put to work in Tijuana

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TIJUANA, Mexico -- A large number of Tijuana’s homeless population lives along the Tijuana River Valley, known by locals as ‘El Bordo’ an area also known for high drug use and prostitution.

By some counts there are as many as 3,000 or more people living here; a large number of them, if not most of them are men and women once deported from the U.S.

“I don’t have any papers,” said Jesus Gonzalez, one of the many deportees living in El Bordo.

He, like many others, can’t apply for work because he has no documentation with him to prove his Mexican citizenship.

Gonzalez is one of many deported for being undocumented in the U.S. and once again undocumented and homeless in his native country.

“So they try to look for a job, and it becomes very difficult,” said Miguel Marshall, a San Diego native with Global Shapers, an initiative by the World Economic Forum.

He came up with an idea.

“We want to teach them how to fish, not give them fish,” he said.

In this case, how to farm.

It’s a job familiar to many of them, who worked in fields before being deported.

Thanks to donations, Marshall and his non-profit built 30 farm beds to grow produce, including kale, lettuce and beats along EL Bordo.

But it isn’t for them to eat, they plan to sell it.

“The income that comes through the sale of this produce, we will use to pay them,” said Marshall.

In an effort to eradicate homelessness in El Bordo; many local businesses have agreed to buy what the homeless grow.

“If it’s in good condition they will purchase it,” said Marshall.

So far a handful of homeless men and woman have agreed to work in the so-called Bordo-Farm. The idea is to grow the program as more of them show up for work.

“What we want to do is we want to build an urban vertical farm in this area, where we would have many, many lines of production that will self sustain,” said Marshall.

Gonzalez, who hasn’t seen or spoken to his family since being deported, says it gives him hope.

“To make it and survive this situation,” said Gonzalez.

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  • Julie Arias

    To eat anything grown in “El Bordo” seems to me to be quite risky health wise. It is the canal and the Tijuan River Valley on the Mexican side of border. In addition to the trash and human waste from the thousands of homeless living there, each time it rains raw sewage and trash flows through the area and out to Imperial Beach and causes beach closures due to the amount of bacteria in the water. Cross the border into Mexico and drive along the “Via Rapida” and you can smell it (even when it hasn’t rained).

    • Mario Lopez

      Julie, you need to find our more before you make an opinion. A) The produce is not INSIDE the canal, it’s on the banks and on special newly constructed stalls that are irrigated WITH CLEAN WATER not the river water. B) You are correct that when it rains it has negative effects downstream but this is a whole different issue not relate to this project. C) The smell that you have as you cross into Tijuana is due to the old sewage system that is close to the El Chaparral Port of Entry, it has no relation to the river. You can be next to the water flowing in the river and it does not smell as described. We will be having visits on Saturday’s the the project area and you are welcome to join us.

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