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Toyota Priuses driven by Chinese men near Mexican border

Legal immigrants say illegal taxis operating on Iris Avenue

SWBG runs San Diego’s Sea World, currently in contentious legal wrangling with the City of San Diego over SWBG’s failing to pay rent for its city-owned Mission Bay venue during the covid pandemic.
SWBG runs San Diego’s Sea World, currently in contentious legal wrangling with the City of San Diego over SWBG’s failing to pay rent for its city-owned Mission Bay venue during the covid pandemic.

No Great Wall

After traveling to San Diego’s troubled border region, a senior researcher for the conservative Heritage Foundation has returned to Washington, D.C. and painted a dire picture of burgeoning Chinese immigration across the border here. “I spent 23 years as a Foreign Service officer with the Department of State, serving at U.S. diplomatic missions in seven countries,” Simon Hankinson, a senior research fellow at the foundation’s Center for Border Security and Immigration, told the Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Accountability of the House Committee on Homeland Security on May 16.

“In San Diego, I saw several groups of Chinese men released by Border Patrol.” He added, “This continuous mass release of inadmissible aliens is, at best, a mockery of U.S. immigration law, labor law, and national sovereignty. At worst, it is a national security and community safety risk of unknown proportions. In addition to Chinese nationals with connections to the Communist Party, People’s Liberation Army, and other elements of the Chinese state, it is statistically likely that [U.S. Homeland Security] is releasing aliens who have serious criminal records in China that are unknown to U.S. authorities.”

Simon Hankinson says San Diego is a nice spot to jump the border.

Hankinson went on to recount his personal experiences here. “In March 2024, I visited the California border in San Diego, Jacumba Hot Springs, Otay Mesa, and Imperial Beach. I spent a morning watching two unmarked buses chartered by the Border Patrol dropping off aliens at San Diego’s Iris Avenue bus and tram stop. Single adult illegal immigrants in San Diego are released at several spots after minimal screening and assisted by [Non-Governmental Organizations], family, and friends to move further into the United States.

“At Iris Avenue, I saw a row of Toyota Priuses driven by Chinese men looking for compatriots to solicit. The licensed cabdrivers I spoke to — who were legal immigrants from El Salvador, Somalia, and Ecuador — told me the Chinese drivers were operating illegal taxis. There were Chinese nationals, of apparently recent arrival, selling cigarettes, internet connections, and other services to their compatriots arriving off Border Patrol buses.”

Hankinson then added, “The Border Patrol’s San Diego sector is attractive to Chinese illegal crossers for several reasons. One is that the U.S. city of 1.4 million people directly extends to the border, with the Mexican city of Tijuana literally built up to the border wall (where it exists) in many places. There is no desert like in Arizona, or river as in Texas, to present even a small natural obstacle. In addition, San Diego’s public transit, the county’s network of non-governmental organizations, and the sanctuary policies of California all facilitate easy entry and dispersal.”

Other countries are also contributing to the problem, per Hankinson’s testimony. “When I visited San Diego in March 2024, I witnessed the release of dozens of aliens from at least 15 countries. From my observations, GPS tracking devices, in the form of anklets, were being worn by people from Eastern Europe and Central Asia — Chechnya, Russia, Kazakhstan — but not Africa, China, India, or Latin America.

“I have also personally inspected several NTAs given to aliens released at the border in Arizona, California, and Texas. On these, the locations for the alien’s scheduled immigration hearing may be nowhere near the alien’s intended destination in the United States. For example, one Indian released in San Diego in March 2024 told me he was going to live with his uncle in Indiana, but he had a court date in May 2024 in Van Nuys, California, which is 2085 miles away. Without a drivers’ license or any identification documents, it is difficult to see how he and other aliens will be able to make the journey of hundreds of miles to attend all of the hearings in their removal proceedings.”


Deadbeat

State Senate Democrat Toni Atkins of San Diego picked up $10,000 from SWBG Operations Group of Orlando, Florida on June 30 for her 2026 gubernatorial campaign, per a July 2 filing with the California Secretary of State’s office. SWBG runs San Diego’s Sea World, currently in contentious legal wrangling with the City of San Diego over SWBG’s failing to pay rent for its city-owned Mission Bay venue during the covid pandemic. San Diego claims the aquatic amusement park owes a cool $12.2 million in outstanding rent, interest charges, and late fees. Sea World says the charges were waived during forced pandemic closures.

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Whether Atkins, a former San Diego city council member closely tied to mayoral Democrat Todd Gloria and the city council is in a position to influence a possibly looming settlement here remains to be seen.


Free Polynesia

House Democrat Sarah Jacobs, whose super-rich grandfather Irwin Jacobs co-founded Qualcomm, took off on a gratis five-day spring vacation jaunt to Fiji, Tuvalu, and Tonga, courtesy of the United Nations Foundation. Her travel cost was a whopping $16,341.15, with food weighing in at $416.55, and lodging valued at $876. A free “bula shirt” given the congresswoman was worth $29.50, per a May 13 disclosure report regarding the junket, which started April 20.

Sarah Jacobs is learning that sometimes, flying free means flying coach.

“Rep. Jacobs will join the trip to learn more about relations in the Indo-Pacific as related to Fiji, Tonga, and Tuvalu.” says the document. “The agenda focuses on U.S.-U.N. relations, small island development, climate change, global health, and US foreign policy.”

The Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva, Fiji is listed as lodging, due to its “favorable rate and location.” In an October, 2018 write-up the Observer noted the famous hostelry “has hosted the likes of Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, and, most recently, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.”

The story added that “initial plans for the hotel began in 1908, when New Zealand’s Union Steamship Company decided its passengers needed fancier accommodations on the South Pacific route. The project was commissioned shortly thereafter, with the original design featuring contemporary colonial architecture that showcased high ceilings and plenty of double doors leading to one palatial veranda.”

But the congresswoman’s island travel was a bit more down to earth, according to the disclosure. “The delegation will be traveling roundtrip from Suva, Fiji to Funafuti, Tuvalu and from Suva, Fiji to Nuku’alofa, Tonga via chartered flights. The highly limited supply of regional flights in the Pacific makes single day trips from Fiji to Tuvalu and Tonga not possible by commercial means, leaving chartered aircraft as the only option to reach the destinations within the scheduling parameters of the visit. The charter flights were arranged via Air Charter Service a brokerage service based in New York and Australia. The charter aircraft only offers coach travel classes.”

Still, it wouldn’t be the South Pacific without colorful native entertainment, the document suggests. “The delegation will be received in a short traditional welcoming ceremony. This traditional welcome ceremony will include cultural dancing and singing from one of the island communities.”

— Matt Potter

(@sdmattpotter)

The Reader offers $25 for news tips published in this column. Call our voice mail at 619-235-3000, ext. 440, or sandiegoreader.com/staff/matt-potter/contact/.

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SWBG runs San Diego’s Sea World, currently in contentious legal wrangling with the City of San Diego over SWBG’s failing to pay rent for its city-owned Mission Bay venue during the covid pandemic.
SWBG runs San Diego’s Sea World, currently in contentious legal wrangling with the City of San Diego over SWBG’s failing to pay rent for its city-owned Mission Bay venue during the covid pandemic.

No Great Wall

After traveling to San Diego’s troubled border region, a senior researcher for the conservative Heritage Foundation has returned to Washington, D.C. and painted a dire picture of burgeoning Chinese immigration across the border here. “I spent 23 years as a Foreign Service officer with the Department of State, serving at U.S. diplomatic missions in seven countries,” Simon Hankinson, a senior research fellow at the foundation’s Center for Border Security and Immigration, told the Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Accountability of the House Committee on Homeland Security on May 16.

“In San Diego, I saw several groups of Chinese men released by Border Patrol.” He added, “This continuous mass release of inadmissible aliens is, at best, a mockery of U.S. immigration law, labor law, and national sovereignty. At worst, it is a national security and community safety risk of unknown proportions. In addition to Chinese nationals with connections to the Communist Party, People’s Liberation Army, and other elements of the Chinese state, it is statistically likely that [U.S. Homeland Security] is releasing aliens who have serious criminal records in China that are unknown to U.S. authorities.”

Simon Hankinson says San Diego is a nice spot to jump the border.

Hankinson went on to recount his personal experiences here. “In March 2024, I visited the California border in San Diego, Jacumba Hot Springs, Otay Mesa, and Imperial Beach. I spent a morning watching two unmarked buses chartered by the Border Patrol dropping off aliens at San Diego’s Iris Avenue bus and tram stop. Single adult illegal immigrants in San Diego are released at several spots after minimal screening and assisted by [Non-Governmental Organizations], family, and friends to move further into the United States.

“At Iris Avenue, I saw a row of Toyota Priuses driven by Chinese men looking for compatriots to solicit. The licensed cabdrivers I spoke to — who were legal immigrants from El Salvador, Somalia, and Ecuador — told me the Chinese drivers were operating illegal taxis. There were Chinese nationals, of apparently recent arrival, selling cigarettes, internet connections, and other services to their compatriots arriving off Border Patrol buses.”

Hankinson then added, “The Border Patrol’s San Diego sector is attractive to Chinese illegal crossers for several reasons. One is that the U.S. city of 1.4 million people directly extends to the border, with the Mexican city of Tijuana literally built up to the border wall (where it exists) in many places. There is no desert like in Arizona, or river as in Texas, to present even a small natural obstacle. In addition, San Diego’s public transit, the county’s network of non-governmental organizations, and the sanctuary policies of California all facilitate easy entry and dispersal.”

Other countries are also contributing to the problem, per Hankinson’s testimony. “When I visited San Diego in March 2024, I witnessed the release of dozens of aliens from at least 15 countries. From my observations, GPS tracking devices, in the form of anklets, were being worn by people from Eastern Europe and Central Asia — Chechnya, Russia, Kazakhstan — but not Africa, China, India, or Latin America.

“I have also personally inspected several NTAs given to aliens released at the border in Arizona, California, and Texas. On these, the locations for the alien’s scheduled immigration hearing may be nowhere near the alien’s intended destination in the United States. For example, one Indian released in San Diego in March 2024 told me he was going to live with his uncle in Indiana, but he had a court date in May 2024 in Van Nuys, California, which is 2085 miles away. Without a drivers’ license or any identification documents, it is difficult to see how he and other aliens will be able to make the journey of hundreds of miles to attend all of the hearings in their removal proceedings.”


Deadbeat

State Senate Democrat Toni Atkins of San Diego picked up $10,000 from SWBG Operations Group of Orlando, Florida on June 30 for her 2026 gubernatorial campaign, per a July 2 filing with the California Secretary of State’s office. SWBG runs San Diego’s Sea World, currently in contentious legal wrangling with the City of San Diego over SWBG’s failing to pay rent for its city-owned Mission Bay venue during the covid pandemic. San Diego claims the aquatic amusement park owes a cool $12.2 million in outstanding rent, interest charges, and late fees. Sea World says the charges were waived during forced pandemic closures.

Sponsored
Sponsored

Whether Atkins, a former San Diego city council member closely tied to mayoral Democrat Todd Gloria and the city council is in a position to influence a possibly looming settlement here remains to be seen.


Free Polynesia

House Democrat Sarah Jacobs, whose super-rich grandfather Irwin Jacobs co-founded Qualcomm, took off on a gratis five-day spring vacation jaunt to Fiji, Tuvalu, and Tonga, courtesy of the United Nations Foundation. Her travel cost was a whopping $16,341.15, with food weighing in at $416.55, and lodging valued at $876. A free “bula shirt” given the congresswoman was worth $29.50, per a May 13 disclosure report regarding the junket, which started April 20.

Sarah Jacobs is learning that sometimes, flying free means flying coach.

“Rep. Jacobs will join the trip to learn more about relations in the Indo-Pacific as related to Fiji, Tonga, and Tuvalu.” says the document. “The agenda focuses on U.S.-U.N. relations, small island development, climate change, global health, and US foreign policy.”

The Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva, Fiji is listed as lodging, due to its “favorable rate and location.” In an October, 2018 write-up the Observer noted the famous hostelry “has hosted the likes of Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, and, most recently, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.”

The story added that “initial plans for the hotel began in 1908, when New Zealand’s Union Steamship Company decided its passengers needed fancier accommodations on the South Pacific route. The project was commissioned shortly thereafter, with the original design featuring contemporary colonial architecture that showcased high ceilings and plenty of double doors leading to one palatial veranda.”

But the congresswoman’s island travel was a bit more down to earth, according to the disclosure. “The delegation will be traveling roundtrip from Suva, Fiji to Funafuti, Tuvalu and from Suva, Fiji to Nuku’alofa, Tonga via chartered flights. The highly limited supply of regional flights in the Pacific makes single day trips from Fiji to Tuvalu and Tonga not possible by commercial means, leaving chartered aircraft as the only option to reach the destinations within the scheduling parameters of the visit. The charter flights were arranged via Air Charter Service a brokerage service based in New York and Australia. The charter aircraft only offers coach travel classes.”

Still, it wouldn’t be the South Pacific without colorful native entertainment, the document suggests. “The delegation will be received in a short traditional welcoming ceremony. This traditional welcome ceremony will include cultural dancing and singing from one of the island communities.”

— Matt Potter

(@sdmattpotter)

The Reader offers $25 for news tips published in this column. Call our voice mail at 619-235-3000, ext. 440, or sandiegoreader.com/staff/matt-potter/contact/.

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