Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Border cops raid immigrants on Grand Avenue

“Excuse me, are you busting these guys?"

The recession that lingers over San Diego with more tenacity than El Nino’s storm clouds has another street-level manifestation that has P.B. residents thinking the “D” word.

At the corners of Grand and Noyes, where Balboa crosses, every morning from 6 a.m. until roughly 9 or 10 a.m., as many as 50 unemployed construction workers, landscapers, masons, carpenters, or maintenance workers gather from East San Diego and Tijuana to wait for local contractors to cruise by and hire men for the day.

While this kind of scene has been familiar to rural North County residents for some years (hordes of Mexican migrant workers silting up in Escondido and Encinitas for harvesting crews), it’s a new one on the community of Pacific Beach.

At 7:30 a.m., the numbers of men (all originally from Mexico, many of whom still live there) have diminished by half. Ten men remain on the eight street corners – four corners and Grand and Noyes and four at Balboa and Noyes. Their numbers are small this morning because of the torrential rains the night before and the threat of another downpour.

One man approaches me as I ask several others if they speak English. He seems to think I am hiring. “I speak English,” he says. He tells me his name is Hector.

And his last name?

Hector looks around at the other men and grins, his green eyes mischievous, his weathered face a fine crinkling of lines. “Ah… my name is Hector Balboa!”

This elicits some laughs from the men around him. What kind of work is he looking for? “Right now, anything. Usually it is construction, but that’s bad right now. So we’re looking for anything, like gardening or anything. What have you got? We’ll do it.”

Hector and the others commute to this spot by bus. He says they have been coming here for five or six years, but some locals say it’s only been the past several months that they’ve seen them in such numbers. Why this location?

“This is where the foremen for the contractors come to pick up guys to work.”

What contractors specifically?

“Oh, I don’t know…” Hector looks away as if considering the wisdom of shooting himself in the foot. “I can’t remember their names.”

What will they be paid for a day’s work?

“Usually, before, it was $4 an hour, sometimes; sometimes just, like, $25 for one day, but now it is less. They can pay almost nothing and we have to take it. Most of these guys have only bus fare to get here… not to get back.”

Another man, behind Hector, wearing a Yankees’ cap and a flannel shirt buttoned at the throat, shirttail dangling, twists the stringy hairs on his beard for emphasis and says something in Spanish, which I took to mean, They can pay us anything, and we’ll do it because we are all idiots. Hector translates more effectively. “He says they can pay us whatever they want to. They’ve got us by the pubic hairs.”

Of the growing numbers of men that arrive on these corners every morning, how many of them can expect to be hired?

“If there are 20 guys, maybe 10 will get work. Sometimes a little more. Last week, 4 guys were hired jus to help somebody move out of their apartment in La Jolla. He promised them $20 each but just paid $50 for everybody. The guys just worked too fast, I think. The young guy that hired them thought it would take all day, but it only took my friends maybe two hours, so maybe he thought $80 was too much. They said, this isn’t right, but the guy said too bad. What are you going to do? I know most of these guys and really, they work, they don’t, you know… fuck around and like that, but with this guy, they should have worked slower and maybe they would get paid more.” Hector grinned ironically.

Hector is short and broad with almost oriental green eyes in an Indian-Spanish face. He wears a navy blue watch cap pulled low on his brow. His mustache is thick and tinged with red. He is friendly enough, but his features can fall into a look of menace that suggests you take him seriously. He seems to be an unofficial leader and spokesman for the workers.

Are there more men seeking work out here because of the recession?

“It’s more like the depression, I think – “ Hector is not afraid of the “D” word – “from what my father told me about it. Most of these guys have had pretty good jobs for a few years. We’re not, most of us, used to hanging around on a corner just to get a job for one day. This is a new thing, but… what are you gonna do? I work with these guys, they are like partners. The foremen know most of these guys and know they are good workers, but a lot of times now, the foremen don’t work too. There’s some guys…” he gestures at the far corner by the Shell Station. “They were foremen. But not now.”

Are all these men legal residents? Or are a lot of them without green cards or amnesty papers?

“Everybody… I think,” he peers at the groups on the corners, “are legal. Maybe a few guys aren’t legal, but it’s none of my business. The police come around and check to make sure that nobody is selling drugs or whatever they think. We’re not. They bother us a couple of times a week, but not too much. La Migra has come here, and they do take some guys sometimes. They are usually young guys.”

Is Hector seeing more border cops in P.B. these days?

“Yeah, a little more. Most people are used to seeing everybody here in the morning, but maybe some old lady gets afraid and thinks, ‘Oh, the Mexicans are invading!’ Then she calls the police, then they call La Migra. These guys from the border patrol are all, like, from Texas. They send them down here to train or something. They all got cowboy hats, and they don’t know anything about San Diego. They think, like they are in the movies.” He laughs. “The police are not too bad, but it’s those guys from Texas, man. They’re bad.”

I thanked Hector and got some coffee down the street. In the middle of my second cup, I saw a turquoise border patrol sedan pull up to the Shell station. Two guys with cowboy hats got out and started talking to a few of the men. I could make out Hector’s form, rushing over to intervene.

By the time I got back to the corner, the border cops, two men who looked to be in their 20s, had put two Mexican men about their own age in the back seat of the Chevy sedan. Neither of them seemed to be cuffed.

“Excuse me, are you busting these guys? Are these guys’ illegal aliens?”

The driver of the car shook his head and said, “Cain’t talk to you. Cain’t answer any questions.”

“Well, did you get a call, a complaint? You guys cruise by here routinely?”

The driver shifted his glasses on the bridge of his nose, shrugged. I walked over to the passenger’s side and asked his partner, “What’s the deal with these guys you’re taking in? No ID – what? You establish that they are illegal?”

The blond partner shook his head. “Ain’t your business, way I see it. You talk to the public information officer. Cain’t talk to you.”

They drove off with their two passengers-prisoners-deportees. Hector says, “Texas guys, man. You see those hats?”

I nodded. “I’m not sure,” Hector Balboa said thoughtfully, “but I think that one guy was maybe Roy Rogers.”

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

How to get to the river path from Sports Arena Boulevard

Maybe you shouldn't try

The recession that lingers over San Diego with more tenacity than El Nino’s storm clouds has another street-level manifestation that has P.B. residents thinking the “D” word.

At the corners of Grand and Noyes, where Balboa crosses, every morning from 6 a.m. until roughly 9 or 10 a.m., as many as 50 unemployed construction workers, landscapers, masons, carpenters, or maintenance workers gather from East San Diego and Tijuana to wait for local contractors to cruise by and hire men for the day.

While this kind of scene has been familiar to rural North County residents for some years (hordes of Mexican migrant workers silting up in Escondido and Encinitas for harvesting crews), it’s a new one on the community of Pacific Beach.

At 7:30 a.m., the numbers of men (all originally from Mexico, many of whom still live there) have diminished by half. Ten men remain on the eight street corners – four corners and Grand and Noyes and four at Balboa and Noyes. Their numbers are small this morning because of the torrential rains the night before and the threat of another downpour.

One man approaches me as I ask several others if they speak English. He seems to think I am hiring. “I speak English,” he says. He tells me his name is Hector.

And his last name?

Hector looks around at the other men and grins, his green eyes mischievous, his weathered face a fine crinkling of lines. “Ah… my name is Hector Balboa!”

This elicits some laughs from the men around him. What kind of work is he looking for? “Right now, anything. Usually it is construction, but that’s bad right now. So we’re looking for anything, like gardening or anything. What have you got? We’ll do it.”

Hector and the others commute to this spot by bus. He says they have been coming here for five or six years, but some locals say it’s only been the past several months that they’ve seen them in such numbers. Why this location?

“This is where the foremen for the contractors come to pick up guys to work.”

What contractors specifically?

“Oh, I don’t know…” Hector looks away as if considering the wisdom of shooting himself in the foot. “I can’t remember their names.”

What will they be paid for a day’s work?

“Usually, before, it was $4 an hour, sometimes; sometimes just, like, $25 for one day, but now it is less. They can pay almost nothing and we have to take it. Most of these guys have only bus fare to get here… not to get back.”

Another man, behind Hector, wearing a Yankees’ cap and a flannel shirt buttoned at the throat, shirttail dangling, twists the stringy hairs on his beard for emphasis and says something in Spanish, which I took to mean, They can pay us anything, and we’ll do it because we are all idiots. Hector translates more effectively. “He says they can pay us whatever they want to. They’ve got us by the pubic hairs.”

Of the growing numbers of men that arrive on these corners every morning, how many of them can expect to be hired?

“If there are 20 guys, maybe 10 will get work. Sometimes a little more. Last week, 4 guys were hired jus to help somebody move out of their apartment in La Jolla. He promised them $20 each but just paid $50 for everybody. The guys just worked too fast, I think. The young guy that hired them thought it would take all day, but it only took my friends maybe two hours, so maybe he thought $80 was too much. They said, this isn’t right, but the guy said too bad. What are you going to do? I know most of these guys and really, they work, they don’t, you know… fuck around and like that, but with this guy, they should have worked slower and maybe they would get paid more.” Hector grinned ironically.

Hector is short and broad with almost oriental green eyes in an Indian-Spanish face. He wears a navy blue watch cap pulled low on his brow. His mustache is thick and tinged with red. He is friendly enough, but his features can fall into a look of menace that suggests you take him seriously. He seems to be an unofficial leader and spokesman for the workers.

Are there more men seeking work out here because of the recession?

“It’s more like the depression, I think – “ Hector is not afraid of the “D” word – “from what my father told me about it. Most of these guys have had pretty good jobs for a few years. We’re not, most of us, used to hanging around on a corner just to get a job for one day. This is a new thing, but… what are you gonna do? I work with these guys, they are like partners. The foremen know most of these guys and know they are good workers, but a lot of times now, the foremen don’t work too. There’s some guys…” he gestures at the far corner by the Shell Station. “They were foremen. But not now.”

Are all these men legal residents? Or are a lot of them without green cards or amnesty papers?

“Everybody… I think,” he peers at the groups on the corners, “are legal. Maybe a few guys aren’t legal, but it’s none of my business. The police come around and check to make sure that nobody is selling drugs or whatever they think. We’re not. They bother us a couple of times a week, but not too much. La Migra has come here, and they do take some guys sometimes. They are usually young guys.”

Is Hector seeing more border cops in P.B. these days?

“Yeah, a little more. Most people are used to seeing everybody here in the morning, but maybe some old lady gets afraid and thinks, ‘Oh, the Mexicans are invading!’ Then she calls the police, then they call La Migra. These guys from the border patrol are all, like, from Texas. They send them down here to train or something. They all got cowboy hats, and they don’t know anything about San Diego. They think, like they are in the movies.” He laughs. “The police are not too bad, but it’s those guys from Texas, man. They’re bad.”

I thanked Hector and got some coffee down the street. In the middle of my second cup, I saw a turquoise border patrol sedan pull up to the Shell station. Two guys with cowboy hats got out and started talking to a few of the men. I could make out Hector’s form, rushing over to intervene.

By the time I got back to the corner, the border cops, two men who looked to be in their 20s, had put two Mexican men about their own age in the back seat of the Chevy sedan. Neither of them seemed to be cuffed.

“Excuse me, are you busting these guys? Are these guys’ illegal aliens?”

The driver of the car shook his head and said, “Cain’t talk to you. Cain’t answer any questions.”

“Well, did you get a call, a complaint? You guys cruise by here routinely?”

The driver shifted his glasses on the bridge of his nose, shrugged. I walked over to the passenger’s side and asked his partner, “What’s the deal with these guys you’re taking in? No ID – what? You establish that they are illegal?”

The blond partner shook his head. “Ain’t your business, way I see it. You talk to the public information officer. Cain’t talk to you.”

They drove off with their two passengers-prisoners-deportees. Hector says, “Texas guys, man. You see those hats?”

I nodded. “I’m not sure,” Hector Balboa said thoughtfully, “but I think that one guy was maybe Roy Rogers.”

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

A poem for Independence Day by Francis Scott Key

His poem “Defence of Fort McHenry” became the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner”
Next Article

Sanctified and glorified at Encanto Southern Baptist Church

Life is important on this side of death, but what really matters is eternity.
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close