NPR Story
11:51 am
Mon May 6, 2013

After Deportation, He Burrowed A Home Steps from the Border

TIJUANA, Mexico — I’ve been working on a few stories about deportees living in Tijuana. On a recent morning I went to one of about a dozen shelters in Tijuana’s Zona Norte for people who’ve been kicked out of the United States but have no place else to go.

That’s where I met Jesus, who so far has given me only his first name. He lived in Los Angeles, and was deported to Tijuana about a year and a half ago. Without family here, he made his way into the Tijuana River, a concrete channel that runs along the border fence and most of the year is just a trickle of putrid green water.

On the bank of that channel, in piles of polluted sediment, he burrowed a little home for himself, ingeniously constructed of planks and other materials that have washed into the river during storms.

He’s spending more time at the nearby shelter now, but he still likes to come to his little home in the river for privacy. He took me there. In the last couple of weeks I’ve met several people like Jesus — Mexicans who spent years or decades living in the U.S., who were deported to Tijuana with nothing, and now are languishing on the fringes of society, on the literal fringes of this city, and by extension on the fringes of Mexico.

Actually, on the fringes of both countries. There’s a yellow line that runs through the middle of the concrete river channel. It marks the technical border between the U.S. and Mexico, even though the border fence is on the opposite bank. To collect the materials for his home, Jesus had to cross that line several times.

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