Bordofarms Program Puts Homeless Deportees to Work Along the Tijuana River
Haya El Nasser - Al Jazeera
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March 26, 2015
Bordofarms volunteers build boxes by the Tijuana River for an urban farming project aimed at helping U.S. deportees. (Facebook)
Along the Tijuana River — more of a drainage canal than a scenic river walk — there is a stark view of problems caused by a flood of more than 150,000 immigrants deported from the U.S. in the last two years.
Makeshift homeless camps, known as ñongos, dot the concrete riverbanks in the infamous El Bordo section of the city along the U.S.-Mexico border. Blankets hang from dam shafts, not fully masking the people huddled behind them. And all of it is within walking distance of the nicely landscaped City Hall and government complex.
The majority of the homeless living along the river in El Bordo (“the border” or “the ditch”) are deportees, kicked out of the U.S. and thrown into limbo in a place where they have no friends, family, jobs or homes.
But a few hundred feet from these dismal camps, a glimmer of hope and urban revival is unfolding. Thirty wooden planters overflowing with freshly planted beets, kale, lettuce, tomato, arugula, onion and other vegetables line a small stretch of the concrete channel.
...“I was homeless," said José de Jesús González, 52, who spent five years in the U.S., farming in Kentucky, before being deported two years ago because he was driving without a license. He was on his way to visit family when he got caught.
He tried to look for work in Tijuana, to no avail. Then he heard about Bordofarms, a modest but innovative program launched by young activists and entrepreneurs who want to help the deportees and clean up Tijuana, a city of almost 3 million people in the Mexican state of Baja California.
González is now the leader of a group of 10 deportees turned urban farmers. They are still homeless but now have been moved to a shelter at night. They report to work on the farm every day. Two people on the night shift stay in a clean encampment close to their crops.
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