TIJUANA (Border Report) — About 30 percent of people deported from the U.S. into the city of Tijuana are former gang members, and drug cartels literally wait for them to set foot on Mexican territory to recruit them, says Víctor Clark Alfaro, a lecturer in the Latin American Studies Department at San Diego State University.
“The gang members know how to use weapons, speak English, have contact with gangs in the U.S. and show no fear,” said Clark. “The only other type of work for them are call centers, but there’s only 12 of them in Tijuana, so they turn to organized crime, which needs them.”
Clark, who is an anthropologist by trade, said most of the deported gang members are between 25 and 35 years of age and have lived north of the border most of their lives.
“It’s easy to tell them apart by the way they walk and their tattoos,” he said. “There’s a fourth economy not recognized legally, but it creates lots of jobs and that’s drug trafficking. … it’s a huge market because there are more than 1.5 million addicts in this country and it’s a number that’s growing because of fentanyl.”
Clark said some of the gang members know how to make methamphetamine and other synthetic drugs and get recruited to make them or simply go to work as enforcers and assassins.
“All these gang members along the southern border are hired by cartels, and they get into raping women, extortion, migrant kidnappings and asking for ransom from families in the United States,” he said. “These gang members who end up in Tijuana and all across Mexico working for cartels don’t dare consolidate and become independent, they’ll get killed and you’re not going to see them fighting amongst themselves protecting their former gangs.”
Clark Alfaro is also the director of the Binational Center for Human Rights in Tijuana. He has been studying human smuggling patterns across the U.S.-Mexico border for more than 20 years.