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Border & Immigration

US Homeland Security investigating conditions at San Diego-area migrant camps

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is investigating complaints of mistreatment of asylum seekers and other migrants living in encampments in San Ysidro and Jacumba.

Investigators from the department’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties visited the encampments earlier this month, according to a statement emailed to KPBS. They spoke with migrants, local humanitarian workers and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) leadership, the statement said.

“We will be evaluating potential civil rights and civil liberties concerns,” the statement read. “We are unable to comment further on the status of an open complaint investigation.”


CBP officials in San Diego have been using the open-air camps in San Ysidro and Jacumba on-and-off since Fall 2022.

Humanitarian workers began sounding alarms about the conditions of the camps almost as soon as they opened. Migrants at the camps don’t have access to shelter and receive very little food and water from CBP officials, advocates say. And they lack reliable access to medical care.

In October, a woman from Guinea died shortly after arriving at an encampment in San Ysidro. 

“We are welcoming of the news that DHS has decided to conduct an investigation,” said Adrianna Jasso, an activist with American Friends Service Committee.

The Homeland Security Department’s email said they agency would not comment further on the investigation. CBP officials have previously said they do not have enough capacity to process the tens of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers trying to enter the United States.


Initially, migrants would spend three or four days in the camps. However, in recent weeks CBP has reduced the time it takes to process migrants, meaning they spend less time in the camps.

However, those who are in the camps could be facing dangerous conditions in the coming days. Southern California, including San Diego’s deserts and mountains, are under flood watch until Friday night due to a winter storm.

Temperatures in Jacumba are already dropping below 40 degrees at night. Jasso said she has seen children shivering in the mornings, even though they are covered in blankets and coats.

Activists have criticized CBP for not having a plan already in place to prepare for the winter weather, especially since the camps have been used regularly for the last three months.

“The most powerful, wealthiest country in the history of humanity is not able to provide fundamental basic needs to women and children,” Jasso said. “I find that hard to believe.”