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Bad idea: border-adjacent campground

Scenic but potentially deadly due to smugglers and convicts

So close to the ocean and removed from development, the area looks like a great site for a campground.
So close to the ocean and removed from development, the area looks like a great site for a campground.

A newly released letter from the U.S. border patrol explains why a San Diego County supervisor's push to place a campground near the border may not be a great idea: it's an active crime scene where 3200 people were apprehended last year, and a fourth of them were convicted criminals. And, the letter notes, in some locations, the campground itself would likely become a tool for smugglers "as a point of operation, coordination and/or observation."

"The more used and densely packed the camp sites become, the greater the likelihood of exploitation by smugglers," the letter says.

In October 2015, San Diego County’s Department of Parks and Recreation held an open house for public comment on six potential campground sites within a mile of the border in the area west of I-5 that is patrolled by the Imperial Beach border patrol station.

Sites include an area just east of the ocean near Friendship Park in Border Field State Park, two locations atop Spooner's Mesa, two more areas in the lowlands immediately north of Spooner's Mesa on the north side of Monument Road, and a sixth site near the community gardens on the north side of the river, about a mile from the border. The effort was part of a $100,000 feasibility study funded with Neighborhood Reinvestment Program money from the county.

After the meeting, acting San Diego Sector border patrol chief Rodney Scott sent the comment letter to the county parks department.

"It is easy to understand the desire to make favorable use of such a rich, scenic, and diverse ecosytem," the letter says. "There is, however, a less obvious aspect of the area, one not as apparent to passers-through or to those who do not have a constant presence in the area."

According to the letter, the Imperial Beach station alone apprehended more than 5300 people during fiscal year 2015, which ended on September 30, 2015.

"Over 3,200 of these apprehensions occurred within the immediate vicinity of the proposed campsites. Twenty-five percent of those apprehended had prior criminal convictions in the United States and some of the illegal crossers were documented gang members," the letter says.

The border patrol has never publicly released figures for a single station, instead providing sector-wide numbers for apprehensions. Several years ago, the public information offices estimated that about 17 percent of the people apprehended had prior U.S. criminal convictions that were serious enough to trigger deportation.

The Tijuana River Valley area is patrolled around the clock by agents in trucks and jeeps, on ATVs and horses, with the support of "low-flying helicopters." There's passive surveillance as well, the letter says. Border patrol enforcement activity "significantly detracts from the serenity that would typically be expected by campers," the letter states.

Sources who saw the percentage of convicted, deported crossers — at 25 percent — thought the percentage was low, though it does fluctuate from year to year. The Imperial Beach patrol station is widely thought to catch more deported criminals than other stations in the sector. According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement data, 19,603 people were deported through San Diego last fiscal year. Of those, 11,118 were convicted criminals. They are sent through a gate just west of the San Ysidro Port of Entry, about a mile east of the park, with whatever belongings they had when they were released from jail or detention.

Mexican officials have launched programs to provide deported people with food, shelter, medical care, and to cover the costs of travel to the cities and states where they have family and community. But some number of people deported after completing prison terms walk down the fence and look for a way to return to their U.S. families and communities.

Of the six proposed campground sites, the border patrol preferred the northernmost because the closer the campground is to the border, the more frequent and intense the disturbances will be, the letter says.

The north site "would be the least impacted, but will still experience some impact at times," the acting chief wrote.

Calls and emails for comment sent to the county parks and Cox's office Monday (June 6) did not elicit a response. Cox, who also serves on the California Coastal Commission, stunned local officials in 2013 by announcing his desire to use $1 million in mitigation fees paid by the Hotel del Coronado to build a campground in Border Field State Park, which was one of the proposed sites in the study. The coastal commission has collected more than $19 million in mitigation fees from developers of high-end projects and more than $10 million set aside for affordable lodging remains unspent, according to commission documents.

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So close to the ocean and removed from development, the area looks like a great site for a campground.
So close to the ocean and removed from development, the area looks like a great site for a campground.

A newly released letter from the U.S. border patrol explains why a San Diego County supervisor's push to place a campground near the border may not be a great idea: it's an active crime scene where 3200 people were apprehended last year, and a fourth of them were convicted criminals. And, the letter notes, in some locations, the campground itself would likely become a tool for smugglers "as a point of operation, coordination and/or observation."

"The more used and densely packed the camp sites become, the greater the likelihood of exploitation by smugglers," the letter says.

In October 2015, San Diego County’s Department of Parks and Recreation held an open house for public comment on six potential campground sites within a mile of the border in the area west of I-5 that is patrolled by the Imperial Beach border patrol station.

Sites include an area just east of the ocean near Friendship Park in Border Field State Park, two locations atop Spooner's Mesa, two more areas in the lowlands immediately north of Spooner's Mesa on the north side of Monument Road, and a sixth site near the community gardens on the north side of the river, about a mile from the border. The effort was part of a $100,000 feasibility study funded with Neighborhood Reinvestment Program money from the county.

After the meeting, acting San Diego Sector border patrol chief Rodney Scott sent the comment letter to the county parks department.

"It is easy to understand the desire to make favorable use of such a rich, scenic, and diverse ecosytem," the letter says. "There is, however, a less obvious aspect of the area, one not as apparent to passers-through or to those who do not have a constant presence in the area."

According to the letter, the Imperial Beach station alone apprehended more than 5300 people during fiscal year 2015, which ended on September 30, 2015.

"Over 3,200 of these apprehensions occurred within the immediate vicinity of the proposed campsites. Twenty-five percent of those apprehended had prior criminal convictions in the United States and some of the illegal crossers were documented gang members," the letter says.

The border patrol has never publicly released figures for a single station, instead providing sector-wide numbers for apprehensions. Several years ago, the public information offices estimated that about 17 percent of the people apprehended had prior U.S. criminal convictions that were serious enough to trigger deportation.

The Tijuana River Valley area is patrolled around the clock by agents in trucks and jeeps, on ATVs and horses, with the support of "low-flying helicopters." There's passive surveillance as well, the letter says. Border patrol enforcement activity "significantly detracts from the serenity that would typically be expected by campers," the letter states.

Sources who saw the percentage of convicted, deported crossers — at 25 percent — thought the percentage was low, though it does fluctuate from year to year. The Imperial Beach patrol station is widely thought to catch more deported criminals than other stations in the sector. According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement data, 19,603 people were deported through San Diego last fiscal year. Of those, 11,118 were convicted criminals. They are sent through a gate just west of the San Ysidro Port of Entry, about a mile east of the park, with whatever belongings they had when they were released from jail or detention.

Mexican officials have launched programs to provide deported people with food, shelter, medical care, and to cover the costs of travel to the cities and states where they have family and community. But some number of people deported after completing prison terms walk down the fence and look for a way to return to their U.S. families and communities.

Of the six proposed campground sites, the border patrol preferred the northernmost because the closer the campground is to the border, the more frequent and intense the disturbances will be, the letter says.

The north site "would be the least impacted, but will still experience some impact at times," the acting chief wrote.

Calls and emails for comment sent to the county parks and Cox's office Monday (June 6) did not elicit a response. Cox, who also serves on the California Coastal Commission, stunned local officials in 2013 by announcing his desire to use $1 million in mitigation fees paid by the Hotel del Coronado to build a campground in Border Field State Park, which was one of the proposed sites in the study. The coastal commission has collected more than $19 million in mitigation fees from developers of high-end projects and more than $10 million set aside for affordable lodging remains unspent, according to commission documents.

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Comments
7

This proposal is a perfect example of the political "leadership" you get from a county supervisor when he has had the seat for far too long. (He's running unopposed for his final term.) The money was there, and Cox wants to spend it in his district and on something that is showy, something he can claim credit for providing. (Secretly, he's probably hoping to have it named for him.)

I have to give the border patrol credit for candor. Of course, the absolute last thing they want is to have a campground in the middle of their patrol area. Unless I'm mistaken, they have made access to the area by hikers and horseback riders most difficult for years. But the BP is pointing out that the border strip, and especially that pocket, is more akin to a war zone than anything else. The treaty with Mexico supposedly prevents "militarization" of the border; that's language from 1847 when nobody much lived anywhere the border. Today you can call that border patrolling anything you want to call it, but it looks more-or-less militarized to me, and for good reason.

No, this isn't just another river estuary with some parkland surrounding it. Cox knows that and will reluctantly accept the veto by the Border Patrol.

June 7, 2016

Only a racist says crime comes across the border! I'm shocked, SHOCKED I tell you! Why, it sounds like next thing there'll be a call for a wall instead of compassion and understanding and free housing and health care for the poor, deserving refugees who are storming our country!

June 7, 2016

maybe the border patrol will have to get off their butts and do their job. keep these people from crossing and it will be safe.

June 7, 2016

There are not enough BP officers to cover the border and even if there was there is no place to put them. Our borders have been overrun for decades due to the desire of employers to avail themselves of cheap labor.

June 8, 2016

How about we build it and then move all the worthless human trash from our streets and put them in this rich, scenic, and diverse ecosytem? Everyone wins and Mexico will beef up border security because they will not want the bums to come to Mexico.

June 8, 2016

If you go downtown to the San Diego criminal courts, you will see many white faces there getting arraigned.

June 12, 2016

I was at Border Park last week with my wife and another couple.

We spoke to a BP agent who told us that the new fortified wall is working well. They have very few crossings in that area now.

It is a safe area despite some of the ignorant comments made here.

However it was clear to us that the Feds do not want anyone "loitering" at the State Park or on the beach near federal property.

The proposed campground will never happen.

June 12, 2016

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