I grew up in California. As a kid — and, in fact, as an adult — when I heard people mention Tijuana, it was usually in reference to some sordid bachelor party, or a day trip in search of pharmaceuticals, or as the backdrop for some tasteless joke. The way many Californians think of “TJ” reflects the way that many Americans think of Mexico: with condescension, and with the assumption that it exists as a thing to be exploited, not respected.
But for those who live there, it is a place of hope, as well as a place of despair. Thousands upon thousands of migrants pass through the city as the penultimate stop in a long journey to the north. And thousands of deportees are exiled there, often at the beginning of an equally long voyage south. There is a taken-for-granted culture of compassion in the city, which undergirds an infrastructure of humanitarian aid for the many desperate people who find themselves stranded there, briefly or indefinitely. Tijuana is a city where people from across two continents find their dreams sustained and where others find them dashed.
My filmmaking partners, Armando Aparicio and Adam Markle, made this short documentary for The Intercept, with a little bit of help from me. It’s beautiful and eye-opening. I hope you’ll watch it.
Also, please read my latest article for The Intercept, just out today, about the impossible situation undocumented victims of domestic violence find themselves in as a result of Trump’s immigration policies.