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Border & Immigration

Most Living In Tijuana Canal Were Long-Term U.S. Residents

Most Living In Tijuana Canal Were Long-Term U.S. Residents
A Tijuana think tank recently surveyed 400 deportees living in the Tijuana River canal. Four out of ten lived in the U.S. for more than 15 years before being deported.

Researchers from Tijuana’s Colegio de la Frontera Norte interviewed 401 deportees living in the two-kilometer stretch of Tijuana River canal that borders the U.S.

COLEF researchers found that more than half of them have been living there for more than a year — in lean-to’s, in drainage pipes, in holes they’ve dug into the riverbank.

Survey Of Deportees Living in Tijuana Canal (in Spanish)
Tijuana's Colegio de la Frontera Norte surveyed deportees living in the Tijuana River canal.
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Four out of 10 deportees in the Tijuana River canal called the U.S. home for at least 15 years before being deported, according to the survey.


COLEF estimates that up to 1,000 deportees live in the canal in precarious conditions. The canal population was likely even larger before municipal police swept the area in early August.

Many deportees were thrown in jail during the sweep. In fact, more than 90 percent of deportees interviewed for the COLEF study said they had been detained at some point by Tijuana police — most of them for lack of identification or loitering.

The study authors suggest making sure deportees can get an ID card when they arrive in Tijuana, and setting up a program to help them find jobs where they can use skills picked up in the U.S. Nearly one-quarter of those surveyed went to high school in the U.S. and more than half speak English.

Still, according to the survey, more deportees would prefer returning to the U.S. than finding jobs in Tijuana.