Twenty-four hours a day, adults with scuffed shoes and dusted pant legs file out of the Otay Mesa Port of Entry — sometimes alone and sometimes in groups — into Tijuana’s streets.
Many stop to charge their phones in the little plaza that receives southbound pedestrian traffic. Some hang around for hours, unsure of where to go next after their plans of reaching the United States have failed.
Most are Mexican men. And for most, this is not the first time they’re finding themselves abruptly returned to Mexico, expelled under a pandemic policy known as Title 42 from the country where they hoped to sneak in and build more stable lives.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, border crossings dipped as countries closed down temporarily to slow the spread of the virus. Since April 2020, the number of monthly apprehensions by Border Patrol has increased to a peak not seen since the spring of 2000. And despite the focused attention on unaccompanied children and families from Central America, the largest demographic group driving that increase is adults from Mexico traveling alone.
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