The Sinaloa cartel of quasi-mythical El Chapo fame took a serious hit over the weekend, when a joint operation between Mexican officials, the DEA, FBI and ICE captured 24 high-ranking members in a cross-border raid in Lukeville, Ariz. and Sonoyta, Sonora.

CBS News has more on the secretive operation dubbed “Mexican Operation Diablo Express” (yeah, I know):

The operation was conducted “with utmost secrecy” and took all day Friday as numerous law enforcement officers worked in both Lukeville and Sonoyta, bordering cities that are on the route to the Puerto Peñasco, the popular beach destination many Americans know as Rocky Point.

ICE helped Mexican federal police into the U.S. to keep them safe during the operation, Christensen said.

The sting also netted the seizure of several assault-type weapons and hundreds of pounds of drugs.

Pope on the Fence About Immigration Issues, Plus a Heartbreaking Piece on Tijuana’s Migrants

According to recent reports, Pope Francis will pray for the undocumented during his visit to Ciudad Juárez this month, giving his border visit a clear political tinge. Crux reports:

The pope’s visit will conclude with an outdoor Mass in Juárez. Behind the altar, the fence that separates the two nations will be visible.

Before the Mass begins, however, Francis is expected to walk to the edge of the Rio Grande, the river that separates the two nations, kneel, and pray for the more than 6,000 people who lost their lives trying to cross the border in the past 15 years.

The Pope will be praying for people like José Alberto Zavala, a homeless migrant who, like many, lives inside a sewage tunnel in the border. Zavala is featured in Jean Guerrero’s lengthy, heartbreaking story on the Tijuana migrants who evade police capture by hiding in the tunnels while trying to dodge cars along the highway. (KPBS)

Guardianes de la Bahía

Blame it on El Niño. With the imminent worry of flash floods, Tijuana lifeguards are looking inland to the city’s hills, slopes and canyons. As Tijuana’s fire chief Carlos Gopar puts it, “There’s been settlement in areas that are not apt for housing, water will always find its course, and this generates risk.” Sandra Dibble has the full story over at the Union-Tribune.

West for June

Dibble also reports that PedWest, a new port of entry that could benefit thousands of people who cross the border on foot, is slated to open in June in the San Ysidro Port of Entry’s west end.

The PedWest entrance initially will have 12 lanes that connect with Mexico’s El Chaparral facility. The plan for PedWest is that 10 lanes normally would serve pedestrians entering the United States, with two lanes set aside for southbound crossers. But depending on demand, their directions could be reversed.

An estimated 24,000 pedestrians cross northbound each day from Tijuana to San Ysidro at the current facility east of the vehicle lanes, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In recent years, lines have grown especially during peak hours, with people waiting two hours or more to cross.

The expansion of the pedestrian lanes is part of the massive $741 million reconstruction of the San Ysidro Port of Entry, scheduled for completion in 2019.

Along with being functional, there’s pressure to make PedWest a thing of beauty, given that the American Institute of Architects recently honored two U.S. border stations (“a relatively obscure building type compared to schools, offices, and museums,” CityLab notes). Will it make the cut? You can see the architectural drawings for PedWest here.

… And South for the Winter

At the risk of reviving an old meme, are you feeling like the rent is too damn high? You are not alone. Rent Jungle says that as of December 2015, one-bedroom apartments in San Diego average $1,635 monthly, while two-bedroom apartment rents average $2,033. Not surprisingly, some are starting to consider Tijuana as a viable option. VOSD’s Maya Srikrishnan, who’s written on the emergence of Tijuana as a destination for affordable housing, joined NBC 7’s Monica Dean in exploring the trend.

Lots of Politicians Talk About the Border Even Though They Don’t Live Here

In New Hampshire, a world away from the U.S./Mexico border, the topic of immigration is a hot one. “[I]llegal immigration is a paramount concern to New Hampshire voters, and Republican presidential candidates are being faced with tough questions from voters in this small, mostly white, state on how they will handle the issue if elected,” reports Fox New Latino.

This is in a state that, per the report, is 94 percent white per 2014 census data, and wherein just 3.3 percent of the population is Hispanic or Latino, versus 17 percent nationwide.

Also miles away, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert recently caught a case of foot-in-mouth disease when, during his monthly press conference, he insinuated that all drug dealers (or at least the archetypal version of drug dealers he has in his head) are Latino.  “I think the discussion is now at hand, the time is nigh, to see if we can find a pathway forward on this,” the governor said, when asked about legalizing marijuana. “But I’m not interested in having Dr. Feelgood out there say, ‘Yeah, yeah, ¿qué pasa? You know, here’s your doobie for the day and you’ll feel better.”

You can read my take over at City Weekly.

TJ Crime Stat Roundup

The good news for those looking to Tijuana as a viable relocation option? Petty crimes are plummeting. The not so great news? There’s an increase in homicides tied to the drug trade. KPBS has an interview with TJ police chief Alejandro Lares, wherein he defines “petty crime” as anything other than homicide. The report underscores recent stats that show that between January and November of last year, 39,474 crimes were reported; the lowest level in over a decade. Along with being the first police department in Mexico to employ body cameras, Lares is now instituting the use of smart tablets during routine stops to help get people’s criminal histories quickly.

A Different Kind of ‘Armed’

I leave you with this picture postcard from the last time I was in TJ.

Mexico’s counter to the States’ dreaded farmer’s tan is brazo de taxista — literal translation: “cab driver’s arm”—evidenced by a darker left arm at the sleeve. This entrepreneurial taxista is onto something with his DIY protectant, don’t you think? Paging Joy Mangano …

Photo by Enrique Limón

Enrique Limón

Born in San Diego and raised in Tijuana, Enrique Limón is obsessed with all things border-related. His great grandfather, Hernando Limón Hernández—a...

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