Around three dozen people, all but four of them men, stood in a line in an empty hiking trail parking lot. They held passports open for inspection. Clean duffle bags and backpacks sat at their feet, tagged with identical white labels from the Border Patrol agents processing them.

All appeared to be in their 20s or 30s, a demographic seen often in videos from the southern border in recent months.

"Right now it is definitely all military-aged males," said Brett Christenson with Border Vets, a group of veterans on a mission to patch holes in the fence separating California from Mexico.

Border Patrol agent inspects passports

Approximately 30 migrants lined up in an empty parking lot near Jacumba Hot Springs, California, on March 27, 2024. (Hannah Ray Lambert/Fox News Digital)

CRISIS IN CALIFORNIA: MIGRANTS OVERWHELMING STATE WITH ‘NO END IN SIGHT,’ LOCAL OFFICIALS WARN

As the group patiently waited within eyesight of Interstate 8, a man pulled into the cracked-dirt parking lot on a ramshackle motorcycle, flames and a jagged smile painted on its sidecar.

His outfit looked curated from an Area 51 thrift store — sunglasses shaped like Martian eyes perched atop the bridge of his nose, and his shirt featured an alien relaxing on a beach. His gray beard pointed to the right, windswept as he raised his phone to photograph the scene.

"I have compassion for these refugees," the man said in a slow drawl. "But they’ve got to do it the right way."

TURKISH CITIZEN: I PAID A CARTEL $6,500 TO GET TO CALIFORNIA BORDER:

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A mile or so up a rough dirt road, six more people stood next to their suitcases and backpacks. They debated walking to where the others were already being processed or continuing to wait for Customs and Border Protection agents to pick them up.

Everyone in the group was young and had traveled from Turkey or Uzbekistan.

"USA don’t give us visa, and we come here illegally," Ugur, a 33-year-old from Istanbul, told Fox News.

He used to work as a store manager, but said life — and the economy — has gotten worse every year in Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"He is dictator," Ugur said of Erdogan. "I hate him."

Ugur paid a cartel $6,500 to drop him off at the border and expected to spend a day or two in custody before flying to Los Angeles. He hopes to live in Santa Monica and drive for DoorDash to make money, an idea that seemed to have been shared with him by friends who have already settled in America.

"If U.S. government let me work, I can work," he said, adding that asylum seekers must wait 180 days for work authorization.

Last September, the New York Post reported that migrants in New York City were delivering food for app companies — including DoorDash — despite not being authorized by the government to work. Some migrants said they paid registered account holders to use their account.

A DoorDash spokesperson told the Post the app "has a rigorous, multi-layered identity verification system," but acknowledged that it might not be 100% effective at stopping account sharing.

Turkish citizen waits for Border Patrol near Jacumba Hot Springs, California

Ugur, 33, said he paid a cartel $6,500 to drop him off near the California-Mexico border. He plans to drive for DoorDash to make money when he reaches Santa Monica. (Hannah Ray Lambert/Fox News Digital)

SHOULD BIDEN PAY THE MEXICAN PRESIDENT'S $20 BILLION DEMAND OR GET TOUGHER ON IMMIGRATION? AMERICANS WEIGH IN

Ugur and the other migrants were among the approximately 1,000 people encountered by border patrol agents on any given day in the San Diego sector alone. Agents there encountered more than 230,000 during fiscal year 2023, a record 2024 is on track to shatter.

"This is a massive problem," Marine Corps veteran, CEO and self-described "ringleader" of Border Vets Kate Monroe said. "Infrastructurally, economically we cannot support this for generations."

Like Christenson, Monroe is disturbed by the high proportion of young men illegally migrating from countries with "ill will" toward the U.S. But as a mother, she feels some sympathy for the families that cross the border.

"I can understand being somewhere else and being poor, not being safe, being hungry and looking here and thinking, ‘This is a good idea.' I can see how I would try to get here," she said. "But the way in which we force people to come is broken."

Someone used a wooden pallet to wind up and pull aside the razor wire Monroe and Christenson had strung across one gap between a rocky hill and the end of the metal border fence. Plastic garbage and discarded clothes littered the other side of the barrier. Ripped up passports were shoved in the gaps between boulders.

Monroe said she has collected shredded passports from all across the world near the fence. 

"Finding tons and tons of passports from Pakistan, Ethiopia, Ecuador, China just crudely tossed on the other side so that they could claim asylum, that was surprising to me," she said.

Kate Monroe pulls crumpled papers out from between boulders near California-Mexico border

Kate Monroe pulls the torn remnants of passports out from between boulders near the California-Mexico border on March 27, 2024. (Hannah Ray Lambert/Fox News Digital)

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While many migrants face life-threatening perils on their journey, Christenson said the coordination and ease of some people's travel surprised him when he started visiting the border.

"It's not this arduous trek they make across Mexico, up and down valleys and rivers and everything. It's very much just through the cartels," he said. "They come with their roller bags as if they're going through TSA. They meet border patrol at designated camps, gaps in the wall, and they're processed to move on from there." 

"It's a very easy process for the right amount of money," he added.

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