Escalating Migrant Crisis in Southern California Draws Concerns From Local Politicians: ‘There’s no end in sight’

By: Alex Trent | Published: Apr 08, 2024

Migrant border crossings continue to surge in many areas across the country, causing local communities to feel the strain. Even parts of California, whose government has made efforts to increase immigration into the state in the past, are starting to feel the effects of the increased crossings.

Local officials are warning that these crossings are just the beginning. As efforts to secure the border seem to wane, some are wondering if authorities have just given up trying.

San Diego Surge

Fox News, citing Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) data, reported that the area around San Deigo in February saw an 85% increase in migrant encounters compared to last year.

A street with cars parked and people walking in San Diego.

Source: Lital Levy/Unsplash

Just a few minutes away from the downtown area of San Diego, the city of El Cajon has become a drop-off site for increasing numbers of migrants. Some stay in the area whereas others continue their journey to the East Coast.


The Gates are Open

Bill Wells, the Mayor of El Cajon in San Diego County, told Fox News that it feels like the gates of the border in Southern California have been left open. Wells admits that the border has “always been a problem” but recently feels like the federal government has not been doing enough to keep bad actors away.

A street displaying US Route 80 located in El Cajon, California.

Source: Kire1975/Wikimedia

“Now the gates are wide open,” Wells said. “We’re no longer even trying.”

San Diego Airport

Mayor Wells contends that the San Diego Airport has become a refuge for migrants, dubbing it a “de facto migrant shelter.” He estimates that around 90% of the migrants then continue to other cities in the United States like New York or Chicago.

A plane rests near the terminal of the San Diego Airport.

Source: Mertbiol/Wikimedia

“Unfortunately, San Diego Airport now has become the de facto migrant shelter, where they sleep there,” Wells said “Hopefully a lot of them leave. But we have no, really, idea of if they do or not.”

Funding Problem

Local news in San Diego reported in February that migrants began being dropped off at train stations and airports after a processing center closed down. 

A view of the bay in San Diego.

Source: Daniel Guerra/Unsplash

The welcome center was run by a nonprofit organization that had to close due to a lack of funds. This San Diego Migrant Welcome Center had reportedly processed 81,000 migrants since October until its closing.

Predicting the Problem

At the time, Mayor Wells predicted the problem would increase, which has seemingly been proven true today.

A family with suitcases and bags in tow walks along a paved path beside a verdant area overgrown with wild grasses and trees. A man leads the way, followed by a young girl wearing a backpack and pushing a stroller, and two women, one carrying a toddler and pulling a red suitcase

Source: Wikimedia Commons

“At some point, you’re going to see congregations of people sleeping under freeways,” Wells said. “Our shelters are full. Our hospitals are full. Now you’re going to add another 1,000 people a day.”


No End in Sight

Jim Desmond, the San Diego County Supervisor of District 5, feels like the increased border crossings cannot continue without adverse consequences.

A Border Patrol Agent dealing with a border crossing.

Source: CBP Photography/Wikimedia

“There’s no end in sight,” San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond told Fox News. “This is a new norm, which I think we’re going to get a rude wake-up call someday.”


Most Chaotic Scene Ever

Desmond told Newsweek in an email that the scene at the border is the most chaotic he has ever seen it, saying more than 24,000 migrants have been released onto the streets of San Diego since February. 

Close-up of the back shoulder of a U.S. Border Patrol officer's uniform, displaying a large yellow patch with the word 'POLICE' and 'U.S. BORDER PATROL' underneath

Source: USBPChief/X

“This is by far the most chaotic we have ever seen the border,” Desmond wrote. “We used to have a few street releases a year, but now we get 500 to 800 a day, and it’s been happening since September.”


Federal Government Failings

Representative Desmond blames the current crisis on the federal government, which he feels has put into place bad incentives that are encouraging the current influx of illegal immigrants.

The U.S. Capitol building is located in Washington D.C.

Source: Elijah Mears/Unsplash

“This crisis is a result of the federal government’s failings,” Desmond said. “By allowing migrants to bypass legal channels and jump ahead of the line, we incentivize illegal immigration and endanger everyone.”


Benefits are Changing

In response to the ongoing surge in migrants in San Diego, officials have warned that financial and aid benefits for migrants will be changing as resources dry up.

People waving American flags.

Source: K.E/Unsplash

“Pretty soon the system is going to be overwhelmed to the point where there’s not going to be enough money to send people everywhere they want to go,” said Mayor Wells.


Foreign Nationals

In March, the CPD reportedly arrested a foreign national with ties to the Chinese Communist Party who had trespassed on a California Marine Corps base.

A large Chinese flag is prominently displayed on a flagpole, fluttering in the wind above a street scene. Traditional Chinese architectural buildings line one side of the road, with electrical lines above and red lanterns hanging

Source: Yan Ke/Unsplash

In February, California Representative Darrell Issa had warned about “thousands of illegal migrants from adversarial nations including China, Russia, and Syria” saying “The risks to our national security are real.”


Migrants in Other Counties

Newsweek reported in February that the influx of migrant crossings had contributed to a record number of Indian migrants coming to California.

A neighborhood full of townhouses in Santa Clara, California.

Source: Usual Nicolaus/Wikimedia

In 2021 there were 2,516 Indian migrant encounters, which would then massively increase to 8,262 in 2022 and 9,442 in 2023. In Santa Clara and Alameda, two of the biggest counties in California’s Bay Area, Indian migrants are now the largest immigrant demographic.