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A Deadly Shortcut : Border: San Ysidro neighborhood where immigrant was killed deals with constant stream of trespassers heading for a new life in the United States.

April 27, 1992|SEBASTIAN ROTELLA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Minutes later and several blocks north, two other homeowners stood in their driveways and watched the same three migrants climb over a wall to the freeway.

"I used to have green grass," said 10-year resident Ray Bautista, who is Filipino, gesturing at his bedraggled lawn. "Now look at it."

Bautista's neighbor across the street has fought the problem by installing fearsome-looking bales of barbed wire at the foot of the freeway wall. Others have adapted by pooling expenses to build wrought iron fences or simply leaving gates open to prevent damage to fences.

Roberto Juan, who has bars on his windows, believes illegal immigration is a factor in crime. He said three illegal immigrants were caught burglarizing his house.

"They pretty much emptied out my house," Juan said. "Somebody spotted them dumping pillowcases full of stuff over the wall to the freeway, which is unusual, and called the police."

Border Patrol agents and residents agree that such crimes are committed mostly by youths from Tijuana who then head back across the border. Police and Border Patrol agents also said brazen smugglers will sometimes steal cars in the area for their operations.

Over time, residents have learned to discern those two groups from immigrants in the classic sense of the word, whom they described as often frightened and law-abiding.

"You're not going to get any problems from mountain people and the farmers," a Filipino resident said. "You can tell them from the TJ punks."

His foremost aggravation, the man complained, occurs when "every now and then one of these guys rings my doorbell and asks if he can use my phone. Can you believe that? I tell them, 'Hell, no.' "

Nonetheless, he has no plans to move. He said Reyes' killing was an aberration that had more to do with the personality of the suspect than of the neighborhood.

"There's a lot of frustration, but not to the point where anybody's going to whoop and holler" in support of the shooting, he said. "That was a terrible incident."

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