A San Diego grandfather fears he will be deported soon for driving to the United States from Tijuana, Mexico with two undocumented people who he says slipped into his van.
And according to some accounts, he is not the only one.
“I’m afraid for my life. I don’t know what else they could do to me, ”said the San Diego man who asked not to be identified by name. He says what happened to him on Friday at the San Ysidro border crossing is a cautionary tale.
“It was a scam,” he exclaimed.
Hoping to make some more money after losing his job as a driver during the pandemic, the father-of-four hopped in his van and drove to Tijuana after responding to an online message requesting a delivery of clothing to an American store.
That’s a not-so-rare request these days, some say, as the pandemic has limited border crossings and access to goods.
“They sent me a list of what they wanted, that’s why I tell you everything was legitimate, and sometimes trying to do good things for people, it brings misery,” the man said. .
Misery has shifted into high gear for the San Diego man in his 50s, who documents his moves to let his family know he’s safe. Shortly after he took a photo at the border crossing, US Customs and Border Protection officials detained him for hours.
Officers accused him of attempting to smuggle two people into the United States. Two people he said he had no idea were even in his van when CBP checked him out.
“He went to the back, opened the door, came back to me and called a code and said, turn off your car. And he started grabbing my arm and said, “I’m going to handcuff you.” I said “What’s going on?” When I turned around I saw 10 officers running towards my car and obviously I started – I was worried about myself and started asking what was going on. What’s in my van? And they asked me not to turn my back on him. They said not to look back.
His van and permanent resident card were seized after his detention and he is now awaiting a deportation hearing.
“It’s just not fair that someone can change your life,” he says with his daughter sitting next to him.
Social media posts appear warning people of similar scams. CBP would not comment on this matter or possible trends.
“Honestly, I’m upset because I know my dad is innocent and I feel like he’s taking advantage of people who live safe, good lives as an American. And then being targeted like that just doesn’t suit me, ”her daughter said.
CBP hasn’t addressed specific questions about how often this can happen, but has issued a statement outlining the responsibilities of drivers crossing the United States.
“CBP is unable to comment on this specific case. CBP would like to remind travelers that they are responsible for everything they cross the border, including any items or people in their vehicle. you are reminded to keep your luggage with you at an airport so that you can vouch for the contents, CBP recommends that you exercise caution before considering taking with you people, packages or other items that do not belong to you; as the driver you take responsibility for those items. If you interact with a CBP agent and you suspect that there is something wrong with your vehicle, you should immediately inform the officer of your suspicion and ask for his help. “