Tijuana, Mexico – Since Donald Trump’s promise to “immediately deport two to three million undocumented immigrants,” the Mexican city of Tijuana has been preparing to bear the brunt of an immigration exodus on a scale never before seen in the country.
Nicknamed Mexico’s “deportee capital,” Tijuana has received 40 percent of all U.S. deportations since 2010 – an average of 7,500 a month – and officials say they are expecting this number to double under a Trump presidency.
“We are expecting U.S. deportations to Tijuana to grow to 150,000 annually in the next two years,” Rosario Lozada, the head of Tijuana’s Migrant Attention program, told Fox News Latino. “We are concerned by the situation, because we struggle to cope with the volume of deportees we currently receive.”
Lozada heads up a local government program that seeks to help deportees rebuild their lives following ejection from the United States. Rosario and her team offer counseling and temporary accommodation, with the final goal of encouraging deportees to leave Tijuana, an aim she says has become more difficult in recent years.
“We always encourage deportees to leave the border, but those who remain usually have no connection to Mexico, with their lives and family in the United States,” she said. “Proximity to loved ones and the hope of re-crossing will keep people here, despite the dangers of life on the border.”
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Mass deportations like those Trump has proposed would be disastrous for Tijuana, Lozada says.
“We struggle to cope with the volume of deportees at the moment,” she said. “There is no funding to move deportees on, temporary accommodation is already past capacity and local organized crime preys upon the vulnerability of the deportees.”
“The arrival of hundreds of thousands of undocumented people in the space of a few months would plunge Tijuana into chaos,” she told FNL.
When asked about Trump’s plans for a border wall, Lozada less worried.
“Tijuana already has three layers of fence and buffer zones between Mexico and the United States,” she noted. “Our main concern is the volume people coming back the other way.”
Of the 100,000 deportees who are ejected across California’s San Isidro border sector annually, an average of 26 percent choose to remain in Tijuana.
Large slums, dominated by drug cartels, have sprung up along the border line in and around the city. Today, neighborhoods like Zona Norte have become no-go zones even for locals.
“Things have been so bad here at times that I’ve wanted to go and punch a cop, just to get put in prison and taken away from here,” Rubén Robles, a deported U.S. army veteran who now lives 50 yards from the border fence, told Fox News Latino.
“There’s a huge divide between locals and deportees here,” said Julio Lujano, who was deported last year from San Jose, California, and remains in Tijuana in the hope of re-crossing. “The Chicano deportees are looked down upon in a lot of places.”
Edward Haase is a San Diego-based deportation defense lawyer, and he says that the legal community is very curious to see what Trump’s immigration policy actually looks like.
“I would say that the deportation of three million immigrants is an impossible task,” he told FNL. “Firstly, I don’t know where he’s getting the numbers. We have no evidence that there are so many ‘criminal aliens’ in the country, to use his term.”
“How will you judge what constitutes a bad enough crime to warrant deportation? To where exactly will you deport these people? Who will cover the costly legal battles that will inevitably arise? What if a deportation candidate has been here for ten years, has three U.S.-citizen children, and pays taxes?”
“These are all issues that Trump hasn’t addressed.”
Despite Haase’s practical doubts over Trump’s positions, he says he has seen a climate of fear develop in immigrant communities since the election.
“With Trump, it’s impossible to predict what will happen, and that uncertainty has left people scared,” he told FNL.
Tijuana has a number of charities that seek to help the deportee population. Father Pat Murphy of the city’s Casa del Migrante (“Migrant Shelter”) says that increased ejections from the U.S. in recent years has forced the group to change its charity model.
“In the last eight or nine years we have shifted from being a casa for migrants to a casa for deported people,” he said at the charity house, a 120-capacity shelter which already struggles to handle the increased volume of daily arrivals.
“Deportations have increased significantly in the past decade, and that doesn’t look like changing with Donald Trump in the White House,” he said. “We have to look at the bigger picture, and that is the fact that deportations have been on the rise for the past decade. This isn’t the result of a recent political movement.”
Originally from Kansas City, Father Murphy believes deportation has a negative effect on the United States in the long term.
“The vast majority of deportees are FNL. “I can only imagine that in the coming years we’re going to bear the brunt of the effects these kids have [experienced] because dad left them.”
People who advocate for large-scale deportation, he argued, “are leaving out the human factor ... These aren’t just numbers, they are people with real lives and real families.”
Alasdair Baverstock is a freelance writer based in Mexico.