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What Is the Southern Border? Do We Truly Have a Problem? Real Talk.

Millennials and Gen Z have their pulse on everything from Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s Oprah interview to this year’s Grammy winners. However, there’s one hot topic the young and free should not miss: the immigration debate heating up along the southern border

Where is the Southern Border? 

You might be wondering what the southern border is. It originally was intended to create a barrier and separate the territory of Mexico and the U.S. Unlike the depiction from movies and TV shows, the border isn’t made up of continuous walls. It spans 1,954 miles – extending from the Pacific Ocean’s west side and ending in the Gulf of Mexico’s east side. While the length is extremely daunting, most of the fencing is built only around key areas in California, Arizona, Texas and New Mexico.

San Diego, California

A key fact that escapes most people is that about one-third of the land belongs to the federal government and Native American tribes, while the other approximately two-thirds is split between the or ranchers.

So, what is the big issue? 

Recent policies coming from the Biden White House have restarted an immense border crisis discussion. With the citizenship announcement for over 11 million undocumented immigrants, this matter has become personal and political, especially for those under 18. The immigration policies have overwhelmed the administration causing more children to be detained in facilities since large groups of people from Central American countries are trying to enter the U.S.

southern border
A line of pedestrians waits to get back into the U.S. at the PedEast crossing point in Tijuana. The average wait time is about 1.5 hours to get to the other side where the San Ysidro trolley stop is located. Pedestrians must wear a mask at all times and get a temperature check.

And with COVID cases continuing to grow, border communities are at odds over the release of detainees who have tested positive for the virus. Multiple detainees have been released from ICE custody into the public domain after having tested positive for COVID. ICE officials said it is “against the agency’s protocol to notify local authorities ahead of time.”

Migrant advocates and nonprofit organizations believe that the detainees should be seamlessly transferred and transported from detention centers into the public space to receive better medical care. The failure to make the detainee releases smooth and comprehensive is where the issue lies.

As of March, COVID has spread to 10,000 detainees and killed nine. Currently, 370 detainees are COVID positive. Melissa Riess, an attorney for the Disability Rights Advocates in California, said, “ICE has no plan to provide vaccines on a systemwide basis.”

southern border
Three migrant women stationed along the Tijuana line hold out cups asking for pesos and selling purses or tiny cloths. Each woman has children who are also busy working. The children ask each person in the pedestrian line if they want to buy Canel’s chewing gum for a few pennies.

How does the issue look on the ground?

ICE currently oversees and runs 200 public and private facilities and county jails. Every day, ICE detains less than 14,000 individuals. 

In San Diego, activists and groups are hopeful that resolutions continue to come under the Biden administration. The Biden administration has already taken steps to include more inclusive language, replacing words like “alien” with “noncitizen.”

In San Diego county, officials are in the process of rolling out a COVID vacation program, signaling a more “humane immigration policy.” With over 160,000 undocumented immigrants living in the country and Tijuana holding the title for “busiest border crossing” in the Western Hemisphere, local health workers and officials must continue to act. 

In San Diego, individuals can currently get a vaccine shot if the person can show proof that they work and live within the country. But, unofficially, the vaccine locations in the greater San Diego area provide shots to individuals who can demonstrate they are frontline workers, 65 or older and/or have pre-existing conditions.

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