Many workers camping out nightly at California border crossing

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SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Three weeks ago, the Otay Mesa Border Crossing changed its hours of operation and almost immediately turned the northbound lanes into an overnight campground.

Each morning, by 2 a.m., people begin lining up waiting for the gates to open, which doesn’t happen till 6 a.m.

The new hours went into effect on May 3. Before then, the border crossing was open 24/7.

Two unidentified men sleeping along pedestrian pathway that leads to Otay Mesa Border Crossing. (Jorge Nieto/Special to Border Report)

And as time has gone by, more and more people have been showing up early.

“One has to get up early if you have a job that starts before 7,” camper Antonia said.

Antonia told Border Report she gets in line by 2:30 a.m. so she’s not late for work at a plant north of the border where she washes strawberries and oranges.

Unidentified man asleep in his car waiting to cross into the U.S. at the Otay Mesa Border Crossing southeast of San Diego. (Jorge Nieto/Special to Border Report)

“A lot of people aren’t used to getting up so early, I don’t get home till late because I have another job, usually don’t get home till 10 at night and can’t get to sleep till about 11, so it’s really tough,” Antonia said.

Antonia on the right, lines up each morning by 2:30 a.m. at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry each morning to get to her job north of the border. (Jorge Nieto/Special to Border Report)

She is one of thousands who crosses on foot and braves the elements until she can head north. Many others wait in their cars and try to fall asleep.

“It’s bad, really bad,” Jose Mendez said.

Mendez lines up each morning by 3 a.m. and brings with him a pair of burritos and a cup of coffee.

“We try to fall asleep, at least we’re in our cars, but there’s a lot of people who don’t have that, don’t even have a bathroom,” said Mendez.

On April 30, Customs and Border Protection announced the new hours of operation for the port of entry due to decreased traffic as a result of the essential-travel restrictions along the border.

CBP officials have experienced a significant decrease in the volume of northbound traffic
arriving at the Otay Mesa border crossing. The week of March 2 compared to last week, CBP
officials saw a 43% decrease in vehicle traffic and a 69% decrease in pedestrians.

“We had previously scaled staffing at the nearby San Ysidro port of entry because of significant
drops in traffic volumes,” said Pete Flores, CBP director of Field Operations for San Diego. “Continued decreases in traffic has necessitated adjustments at the Otay passenger border
crossing to minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure to our workforce and to enable us to devote
resources to combating the criminal element that may try to take advantage of the crisis to further
their illegal enterprises, such as outbound inspections.”

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer opens gate at one of the northbound traffic lanes at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry. (Jorge Nieto/Special to Border Report)

Customs and Border Protection has not indicated when the Otay Mesa Border Crossing will return to its normal hours of operation.

Visit the BorderReport.com homepage for the latest exclusive stories and breaking news about issues along the United States-Mexico border.

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