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Tuesday, November 16th

On the road. Sometimes in the bus, sometimes off the bus, because the tire loses its tread, a radiator hose breaks in half or just because we find a lake to jump in.

We drive along the Mexican border, across this dead area that many migrants try to cross and where so many of them come to death because of dehydration. In some parts it just looks as if this was a dust-heap of stones. It's always been well-known that this area is extremely dangerous to cross, and people avoided it. But with "Operation Gatekeeper", the militarization of the border especially at its west end in and near Tijuana/ San Diego, it's nearly impossible now to cross there, and so more and more migrants are trying to make it through the desert.

We also get controlled by the migra, how the INS is called by Mexicans. With all these non-whites among us the caravan looks very suspicious. The customers speak some words of Spanish they get taught, but not much - they are usually too afraid to enter Mexico. "I have never been to Mexico, have never been to Tijuana", Border-Patrol PR-Agent Ron admitted on another occasion. "I'm too afraid somebody would recognize me". But he spends his life a few meters from the border, waiting to catch Mexicans. Those who get cached get checked in the computer system; a scanning of the profile tells if this person tried to pass before. If not, they may choose: Contacting a lawyer and stay, or getting a hamburger and being deported at once. If it's a family they usually get divided, so that they'll need some days to find each other again.

The sign at the fence in Tijuana states that 444 Latin Americans have died yet as a consequence of Operation Gatekeeper. All the names, ages, origins and their causes of death are listed but this figure needs to be revised about every three days to keep pace with the fatalities. It's not always dehydration, pretty often somebody gets killed in "self-defense" of a patrol customer against stone-throwing migrants. The figure does not include the 135 killed in car accidents when they tried to cross the highway on the U.S. side, where signs show running families like we know them with running animals. And these are not all deaths along the border but just between Tijuana and the next bigger city Mexicali. The fence here is made out of metal that had been used as runways during the Kuwait war. It goes deep into the see to make it impossible to pass it by. In Tijuana itself it's completed with another fence that goes deep into the ground and is formed in such a way that nobody can cross it. But this fence costs hundreds of thousands of dollars a mile, and so they won't cover all the border with it. Instead they cleared the area: no houses, no bushes, just floodlight and after a few hundred meters the next border patrol jeep. On the Mexican side the houses nearly squeeze up the fence, and suddenly the world looks so different: poor. Houses are usually self-built in Tijuana. It's quite easy to find work in one of the maquiladoras, that's why so many come to live here when they don't know any more what to live on in their origins, but this doesn't mean they have the money to pay rent.




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