MEXICO CITY – Porfirio Hernandez’s home in the Nido de Aguilas (Eagles’ Nest) section of Tijuana stands at the place where a stretch of US-Mexico border without a wall is located.
That’s where migrants stop to get water, food and other help, although – he says – fewer and fewer are knocking at his door these days.
The gap in the wall where Hernandez’s home stands is 2.3 kilometers (1.4 miles) long, and the northern Mexican state of Baja California has only 20 of the 1,116 km of fenced or walled border, after construction of the barrier began in 1994, long before US President Donald Trump ordered building a larger and more complete wall to separate the two nations and halt the illegal cross-border flow.
There’s no apparent explanation for the gap in the barrier here, but the situation has made the 59-year-old Hernandez a witness to the experiences of many migrants taking advantage of the relatively open border to try and cross into the United States.
However, Hernandez, who has lived in his house for 17 years, says that since Trump took office there are fewer migrants trying to cross the border illegally here, whether they be Mexicans or Central Americans.
This reduction in border crossings, a trend that was already becoming evident during the Barack Obama administration, means that although 10 years ago “30 or 40 people” passed through the area each day, recently just five or six were coming through daily and right now it’s only about three per week.
“Right now, they’re not coming through,” Hernandez told EFE, adding that he thinks that having the new president in office “is making the situation pretty bad.”
The migrants mainly come to his door asking for water because “here it’s just desert, there’s almost (no water),” but they also ask for food.
Sometimes, desperate people have “come running to the house asking for help because they’re being chased” by criminals, one of the many dangers facing the thousands of migrants who each year traverse Mexico en route to the US.
Crossing the border has been made more difficult by the efforts of immigration authorities, who mount frequent patrols through the area and use security cameras to monitor the border zone.
The migrants try to take advantage of darkness or bad weather, like fog, to cross over into San Diego, the city on the US side.
“Most of them are detained; only a few get through,” said Hernandez, noting that two migrants were detained nearby just the other day.
Although normally he does not give shelter to tired migrants, he has to be careful that Mexican border patrols don’t see him offering food to them because he’s already had problems with the authorities, Hernandez said.
One time, he said, Mexican immigration authorities “came into the house without any search order or permission and checked all the rooms,” accusing him of hiding a group of migrants.
“And, thank God, the migrants had already crossed to the other side,” he said.
From the conversations he’s had with the migrants, Hernandez has concluded that “all the ones who come through here ... are short on resources and
they want to live a quiet life.”
He said that he himself came from the southern state of Chiapas when his family members had no money or work opportunities there and had to migrate, first settling in Tabasco state and later in Tijuana.
“I’ve seen poverty ... I don’t have the heart to say no. I try to help them because I’ve also suffered a lot in my life,” he said.