Thursday, September 29, 2022

Fact check: US travelers warned of violence in parts of Mexico, border remained open

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The claim: The U.S. border closed because of violence in Tijuana

As the Mexican government continues to grapple with a recent spate of car burnings and other attacks in Tijuana, some social media users have claimed that the incidents triggered a border closure.

“The drug Cartels declared war! Tijuana under attack! All of Mexicali, Tecate and Rosarito areas are under high alert! The US border has been shut,” reads an Aug. 13 Facebook post that was shared more than 300 times in five days.

While U.S. government employees were temporarily told to shelter in place and there was a decrease in border traffic, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson told USA TODAY there were no closures. 

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USA TODAY reached out to the user who shared the claim for comment.

Mexican officials “on alert,” but incidents did not lead to border closures 

Violence in Tijuana and other parts of Mexico has risen over the past few weeks, but the status of the border has not been affected by it, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“There were no changes for U.S. Customs and Border Protection at our border crossings; no closures and no new restrictions,” agency spokesperson Jacqueline Wasiluk told USA TODAY in an Aug. 18 email. 

The Los Angeles Times reported a decrease in border traffic at one point, though it said numbers “appeared to return to normal” by Aug. 16.

Mexican officials did say they were “on alert” in Baja California, the state encompassing Tijuana and other areas mentioned in the Facebook post, as reported by NBC San Diego.

The president of Mexico also visited the area and military reinforcements were sent into Tijuana to strengthen security, according to NPR. 

The U.S. government has taken steps to deal with the violence, too.

U.S. government employees were “instructed to shelter in place” in light of the incidents, according to an Aug. 12 alert from the U.S. Mission to Mexico. The U.S. Consulate Tijuana issued an updated alert on Aug. 14 saying those instructions were no longer in effect. 

More: Authorities discover drug smuggling tunnel six stories deep from Tijuana to San Diego

On August 17, the U.S. State Department also advised Americans to “reconsider travel” to Baja California and other parts of Mexico because of “an increased risk of crime and kidnapping” after issuing an alert a week earlier.

Our rating: False 

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that the U.S. border closed because of violence in Tijuana. While officials urged Americans to reconsider travel and there was a drop in border crossings, a border patrol spokesperson told USA TODAY there were no closures or changes to the border.

Our fact-check sources:

  • National Public Radio, Aug. 20, The cartels flexed their power in Tijuana — and now the battle for influence is on
  • National Public Radio, Aug. 19, Violence erupts in Tijuana, Mexico, following the arrest of a drug cartel leader
  • Jacqueline Wasiluk, Aug. 18, Email to USA TODAY
  • U.S. Department of State, Aug. 17, Mexico Travel Advisory 
  • NBC 7 San Diego, Aug. 16, Mexico Remains on Alert After Chaotic Weekend in Tijuana, Rosarito, Ensenada
  • The Los Angeles Times, Aug. 16, Tijuana cartel violence caused border traffic to plummet. Now it’s getting back to normal
  • U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Mexico, Aug. 14, ALERT: INSTRUCTIONS TO U.S. GOVERNMENT PERSONNEL TO SHELTER IN PLACE ARE NO LONGER IN EFFECT
  • Axios, Aug. 13, U.S. Consulate workers in Tijuana told to shelter in place amid wave of violence
  • U.S. Consulate Tijuana, Aug. 13, Tweet 
  • U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Mexico, Aug. 12, ALERT: FIRES, ROADBLOCKS, AND POLICE ACTIVITY IN TIJUANA, MEXICALI, ROSARITO, ENSENADA, AND TECATE . 

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Our fact-check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook. 

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