Thousands live in border no-man's land - Tucson News Now

Thousands live in border no-man's land

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Squatters along river bank are wanted neither in Mexico nor the United States. (Source: CNN) Squatters along river bank are wanted neither in Mexico nor the United States. (Source: CNN)

TIJUANA, MEXICO (CNN) - There are thousands of people living near the fence between the United States and Mexico, and unwanted by both countries.

The area known as 'El Bordo,' located just outside of the Tijuana city limits, is where Mexican police say squatters are breaking the law by making a horrible place their home.

In one week, Miguel Valdez went from an American life to a life he never imagined.

Dragging everything he owns through his new home - the Tijuana river channel.

Valdez does not know English well, and he is not an illegal immigrant.

His parents crossed the border to the U.S. illegally, bringing him along when he was four.

Valdez got a green card, a college degree and a job as a computer programmer in Los Angeles.

So how did he end up in El Bordo? 

As an adult, he didn't get his U.S. citizenship. So when he was arrested for drugs and illegal possession of a gun, the government could, and did, legally revoke his green card and deport him.

Now he has no money, no Mexican friends or family, and no identification for either country.

The border fence can be seen from what they call El Bordo, though you might call it hell on earth.

Those who dot this canal call it purgatory.

The border's purgatory, a place without religion, order and in many cases, hope.

They were ejected by the U.S., and are unwelcome in Mexico.

Stateless and stuck between the two countries.

 There are no official figures of how many people live here but advocates estimate around 4,000. And most, they say, are deportees.

Coping as best they can, says Fernando Miranda.

He's draining water out his house. It's a hole he's built within the canal's rotting debris.

He used his construction skills from working 25 years in Silicon Valley's housing industry to build a solid hut made out of debris.

It's as close as he can be to his four children on the other side of the border.

The undocumented worker was deported nearly three years ago after a traffic stop.

He had no U.S. passport and no Mexican identification.

He was deported with nothing but the clothes he wore. He says no one will hire him for a real job in Mexico.

He says Mexicans discriminate against deportees like him because he lived in the U.S. for decades.

His home is purposely hard to see because the Tijuana police constantly harass him and everyone else in El Bordo.

Officers driving through the canal would not talk.

But they have openly called the deportees criminals, and a public health threat to Tijuana.

It's a no man's land.

Hector Barajas, a deportee, is also a U.S. Army veteran of the 82nd Airborne.

Barajas says he was honorably discharged, but he openly admits he's not an angel.

He was arrested for shooting an illegal firearm - that's a felony.

His green card was revoked and it's taken him years to get back on his feet in Mexico, a place he left as a young child.

"When you get here, you come with nothing," he said. "So you probably spent four or five days in a detention. You haven't shaved. You don't have money to buy a shaving kit or whatever. You look like you're homeless. That's what happens."

There are a lot of American people here.

They may feel like American people, but they're not American.

And that's the frustration, they are trapped in a place both governments want to forget.

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