Scenes From a Migrant Camp at California’s Southern Border

A staggering number of migrants converged last week at the U.S.-Mexico border, making treacherous and costly journeys from far-flung countries, flooding shelters and sleeping on sidewalks in the hope of gaining legal entry into the United States.

The surge was prompted by the much-anticipated end of Title 42, a pandemic-era federal policy that allowed the authorities to swiftly expel migrants from the country. The influx has lessened somewhat in the last few days, but not before filling several makeshift migrant camps that have sprung up along the 2,000-mile southern border, including in California.

One of those camps is in Jacumba Hot Springs, a town of roughly 500 people in the eastern San Diego desert. Several hundred migrants who had crossed onto U.S. soil gathered there in the arid wilderness, sleeping outdoors and relying largely on volunteers for water, food and protection from the chilly nights and blazing hot days.

“I went in with the volunteers, and the very first thing I saw was a man passed out, possibly going into heat stroke,” Mark Abramson, a photographer on assignment for The New York Times, told me.

After reporting with me last week from a makeshift migrant village in the southernmost section of San Diego, Mark drove about an hour eastward to photograph the camp in Jacumba Hot Springs over the course of two days. His stunning images, which we’re sharing today in the newsletter, show migrants fashioning tents out of tree branches, making bonfires to stave off the nighttime cold and being handcuffed as the authorities took them into detention.

The recent surge at the border has brought renewed attention to Congress’s failure to pass bipartisan immigration reform, and to the humanitarian crisis that has been playing out at America’s southern border for years. Many developing nations have yet to fully rebound from the economic harm done by the coronavirus pandemic, driving migrants from all over the world toward the United States in search of better opportunities.

Migrants have come to Jacumba from Colombia, Brazil, Peru, India, Vietnam and Uzbekistan, among other places, said Jeff Osborne, co-owner of the Jacumba Hot Springs Hotel, who distributed donated blankets, water bottles, diapers and fruit in the camp, including some he had paid for himself. Some migrants told Osborne that they had traveled for months to reach Tijuana, the Mexican city just south of San Diego, he said, while others had come by air just a few days before.

Then they crossed onto American soil and waited in the camp to be processed by Border Patrol officials.

Border Patrol agents and others arrived at the camp early this week to begin taking the migrants to detention centers. Some of the men were handcuffed as they were loaded into vans.

“It really, really, really bothered me,” Osborne said. “To me, it was just totally unnecessary and degrading.”

State Senator Steve Padilla, who represents a district spanning the southern border, is looking into the treatment of migrants at the Jacumba site, including the use of restraints, according to his communications director, Cameron Sutherland.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

For more:

Today’s tip comes from Arthur Pruyn, who recommends visiting Mount Diablo State Park in the Bay Area:

“I highly recommend the top of Mount Diablo on a clear day, when you can see Lassen Peak over 160 miles away, the Farallon Islands over 60 miles away and the majestic sweep of the Sierra. You can even find out about how the mountain was ‘misnamed’ by the Spanish.

The drive up is nice, and there are lots of other places to go within 15 miles to get some absolutely great food. The cost to get into the state park is not that much, and there are lots of places nearby in the park for kids to get out and enjoy themselves — Rock City is one of my favorites — or for nice nature ambles.”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

My colleague Jill Cowan reported on the enduring fame of P-22, a mountain lion that became an icon for Angelenos.

While there have been plenty of famous domesticated animals, we want to hear about any wild animals that became celebrities to you. Did you have a bird, bear or deer in your community that you became attached to? Tell us about it and why you became a fan. Email us at [email protected] with your suggestions.

In a gorgeous new photo essay, young Angelenos relax and connect in parks, which serve as safe spaces for nurturing community, particularly among L.G.B.T.Q. youth. Parks became particularly important during the pandemic, when many businesses were closed and when meeting friends outside felt safer than doing so indoors.

And the Los Angeles climate means that no matter the season, it’s hardly ever too cold to be in the park.

“It’s a beautiful thing,” Autry Hayden Wilson, 25, said. “I feel like I’m at a place where I feel very strongly that I am surrounding myself with the right people.”

The images are part of a Times visual series called Where We Are, about young people coming of age and the spaces where they create community.

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