Migrant Encampments

Take a look at the following 5 minute movie clip. These migrant encampments are located in a northern San Diego suburb. About half of the migrants work in the tomato fields operated by Leslie Farms. The other half work as day laborers in construction. In the movie you will see an area that is littered with dozens of used condoms. This is an area where prostitutes are brought to service the migrants. These women are smuggled across the border and forced into prostitution. Sometimes they are as young as twelve years old.

    For photo’s click here.

    I became interested in these migrant encampments after reading the following article in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

    By Elena Gaona
    July 9, 2005

    RANCHO PENASQUITOS â?? The migrant encampments in the canyons near homes here are a symptom of a national problem that won’t be solved by police, the city or any other local agency, residents were told at community meeting.

    A panel of officials from the police and fire departments, code compliance and environmental services, the U.S. Border Patrol, Assemblyman George Plescia and representatives from Councilman Scott Peters’ office addressed a curious and mostly subdued crowd of about 65 people about the issue.

    Some residents see a growing threat and safety hazard from the hundreds of men living in shacks in the canyons near their homes, said T.J. Zane, president of the Rancho Peñasquitos Town Council, which organized the meeting at the Doubletree Hotel on Thursday night.

    A May 31 rape near Canyonside Community Park that police believe was committed by a migrant worker has brought the issue to the forefront, Zane told the audience.

    There are actually fewer immigrant workers living in Rancho Peñasquitos and nearby communities than a decade ago, San Diego police acting Lt. Carlos Medina told the audience. A minicity of about 1,000 people, including women and children, lived in McGonigle Canyon in Carmel Valley before the camp was razed in 1994 and some residents were moved to apartments and houses, Medina said.

    Since then, the number of workers living in makeshift camps in the area has decreased to fewer than 300, all adult men, Medina maintained. Many are in camps in Rancho Peñasquitos, such as in Canyonside park, near Shoal Creek, Paseo Montalban, Azuaga Street and Carmel Mountain Road and in McGonigle Canyon.

There could be more than 300 people in McGonigle Canyon. There are many other encampments in the surrounding area. They are not all adult men either. I spoke to a boy who was 15 years old. I wouldn’t be surprised to find children much younger working in the fields. I believe women may also live in the camp. I’ve seen women’s clothing hanging to dry by the creek where they bathe. There were about 1,000 acres of farmland in the area a decade ago but housing developments have decreased the farming to 250 acres. This is the main reason you find fewer migrants living in the area.

    Panties hanging to dry.

Most of the men are from Mexico, but also from such countries as Guatemala and Honduras. They work in the fields, in construction and for restaurants and homeowners.

The panel talked about typical complaints concerning the camps, such as whether the men will start dangerous fires, pollute the environment, commit burglaries or just generally make residents feel unsafe.

Bobby Cepeda from the Fire Department said fires are not a serious issue. Medina said most of the men are not criminals.

Assemblyman Plescia, R-San Diego, said he’s been pushing to address the issue at its core: stopping immigrants from entering the country illegally.

I agree with Assemblyman Plescia that we need to stop illegals from entering the country but the core of this problems lies with the people who employ them. Many of these people work in the surrounding tomato fields. I don’t know how many of them are in the country illegally but if they are here with a temporary H-2A worker visa they are required to have housing provided for them and the employers need to be fined for not doing so. If they are illegal they should be deported. The farmers need to follow the law without exception. The H-2A unskilled worker visa has no annual cap so there is no reason for an employer to cry about how they can’t get enough workers. These farmers are exploiting these people and treating them like trash and it’s disgusting. These farmers encourage illegal immigration in order to continue this exploitation.

Plescia said he advocates additional fencing that would help secure the entire southern U.S. border; a California Border Patrol that would take over the duties of the U.S. Border Patrol for the next decade; and tougher sanctions on employers who hire undocumented workers.

The bottom-line message from the panel, however, was that there are no easy answers. The best recourse for worried residents, they said, is to continue contacting the appropriate agencies to report suspected criminal activity, fire threats, pollution and other problems.

But don’t expect the camps to go away as long as there are jobs for the men who live in them.

Again and again, panel members said, more laws will not get rid of migrant encampments. There are already state laws that require farms, for example, to provide affordable housing for workers, said Tony Kahlil of the San Diego Neighborhood Code Compliance Department. That would solve many problems, but there’s no one to enforce the laws, he said.

Some in the audience reacted with concern at comments by Border Patrol representative Raleigh Leonard, who said there aren’t enough agents to leave their posts along 66 miles of the county’s border with Mexico to travel inland and apprehend workers living in camps, who would only return or be replaced within a few days.

The Border Patrol is definately undermanned. I had heard all about “Operation Gatekeeper” and how it pushed the migrants into Arizona. The reality is that the San Diego/Tijuana area is still out of control. I’ve been on Minutemen border watches in the area and it’s just insane.

There aren’t enough police officers either, said Capt. Chris Ball, to justify sending them to clear out camps when the officers are needed on the streets to deal with dangerous criminals. His department, Ball said, made a policy decision 15 years ago, driven by the public, that officers would not inquire about the immigration status of people they contact unless the person is being arrested for a crime.

One major reason, Ball said, “is to have people confident they can come to the police” as victims of or witnesses to crimes, he said, even if they are not legal residents.

These sanctuary policies do nothing but protect criminals. The only members of the public who favor these policies are open-border fanatics.

During the meeting’s only outburst, Town Council member Raymond Vanmeter, citing an increasing threat from terror attacks such as the one in London this week, shouted at Ball: “You’re our first line of defense, to protect and serve. It’s your duty to protect us.”

Ball responded that after 40 years as a police officer, he believes he knows the difference between a migrant worker and a person who would commit crimes.

What a stupid comment. Do criminals have little horns on their heads? Captain Ball has been replaced by a man named Jim Collins. Area residents are pleased to see Captain Ball leave.

Patrick Hunter, who lives in Rancho Peñasquitos, said the session, while not providing any clear solutions, was informative. It gave him and his neighbors a better sense of who the men are living in their neighborhood.

“It’s a long-term issue,” he said, “and every time, we learn a little bit more.”

Related news stories:
Migrant Housing Issue
‘Survival kits’ for migrant farm workers need filling, charities say
Carlsbad to evict migrant camp occupants

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