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The small crowd waited anxiously at the Port of Entry in San Ysidro, holding signs and American flags.

No one came.

The group on the U.S. side of the border was waiting for news from several deported veterans of the United States military who had turned themselves in en masse to U.S. Customs and Border Protection to request humanitarian and medical asylum.

The event was preceded by a damning report from the American Civil Liberties Union, which concluded that the United States had failed military members by not helping them become citizens.

Friends and family of the veterans were hopeful at first, then resigned and then disappointed as they waited. Finally, at the end of the day, word came back to the friends and family members in San Diego that the group had been through immigration interviews, but would be sent back into Tijuana pending a decision at a later date. One veteran’s sister wept in her friend’s arms.

Photo by Brooke Binkowski
Photo by Brooke Binkowski

If the group of deported veterans isn’t allowed back into the U.S. on medical or humanitarian visas, many will be allowed back on American soil only after their deaths: By law, all honorably discharged military veterans are entitled to burial in a national cemetery, and immigration laws don’t apply to corpses.

Last week, Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva introduced a bill to allow deported veterans to return to the U.S. as lawful permanent residents and cancel removal proceedings for others. The Veterans Visa and Protection Act would cover veterans who were honorably discharged and then deported after being convicted of various crimes.

It would not cover violent felons or people who might endanger national security, according to the Tucson Sentinel.

Meanwhile, deported veterans who were sent back to Tijuana after their immigration interview are still waiting on a final decision. Their friends and families in the United States are waiting, too.

Poll: Neighbors See Themselves as Such

A new poll has found that residents on either side of the border fence overwhelmingly value their binational mobility and oppose a wall.

The Cronkite News-Univision News-Dallas Morning News Border Poll surveyed more than 1,400 people in various “sister cities” along the border between Mexico and the United States, and asked questions about immigration, security and trade.  Sixty-nine percent of respondents in Mexico said they depend on their neighbors in the United States economically; 79 percent of respondents in the United States said they depend on Mexico for economic survival, reports the Dallas Morning News.

The results fly in the face of outsiders’ perceptions of the entire region as a lawless, frightening frontier.

More Border News

High-profile priest and human rights champion Father Alejandro Solalinde arrived in Tijuana last week to hold a mass and meet with migrants from Haiti and African countries, as the waves of people arriving from across the world showed no signs of stopping.

The priest has been outspoken for years about migrant and refugee rights in particular, but also has devoted his attention to humanitarian issues within Mexico. (Telemundo, link in Spanish)

 In Phoenix, former Minuteman leader and outspoken border vigilante Chris Simcox was sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison for child molestation. He was convicted of sexually abusing a 5-year-old playmate of his daughter, and the case against him was bolstered by testimony from his adult daughter, who said that he had abused her on at least three occasions.

Simcox was a frequent visitor to Southern California for “border missions” at the height of the Minuteman movement, which began in the mid-2000s. (Phoenix New Times)

Tijuana has a rape problem, Gabriela Navarro Peraza, director of Inmujer (Instituto de la Mujer, or the Woman’s Institute), told El Sol de Tijuana (link in Spanish). There have been 465 rapes reported in 18 months in Tijuana, higher than any other place Baja California. Many cases involve women who are in the process of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The issue is also exacerbated by Mexico’s high rate of impunity: Fewer than 1 percent of all crimes in the country are punished, according to a new study.

For regular border crossers, waiting is a part of the routine, at least for those who cross at San Ysidro. But why? One explanation: the uptick in the number of cars crossing the border since 2013. (San Diego Union-Tribune)

With a new plant being built, Baja California is set to become a desalination leader.  (El Economista, link in Spanish)

Food and Drink

New jersey, new roster, new beer sponsor, new hope: Mexican soccer’s Apertura season has opened with a complete overhaul by the Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles. The Xolos have become the first Mexican team to pick up a Bud Light sponsorship. (Soccer Nation, Goal Nation)

Popular San Diego ramen restaurant Tajima has expanded its offerings into Tijuana, opening a 500-square-foot stand in Zona Rio’s Plaza Rio Food Garden. (Eater)

Every year, magazines discover the “burgeoning” wine region of Baja California, which has actually been around since the 1800s. This year is no exception. (Napa Valley Register)

Brooke Binkowski

Brooke Binkowski is a backpack reporter who has been covering the U.S.-Mexico border for many years. Find her on Twitter at @brooklynmarie.

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