President-Elect Joe Biden has picked Alejandro Mayorkas to lead the U.S.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS). If confirmed, Mayorkas will be the
first Hispanic in that role. He is the son of Jewish Cuban refugees and directed
U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services before becoming DHS deputy secretary.
He tweeted last week that “When I was young, the United States provided my family and me a place of refuge. Now, I have been nominated to be the DHS secretary and oversee the protection of all Americans and those who flee persecution in search of a better life for themselves and their loved ones.”
Mayorkas’s sensitivity to immigration issues could mean that substantial
changes are headed our way at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Our
coalition believes that our ports should make changes in the way they are
managed, starting with up-to-date security and efficiency metrics, better
staffing, lower and more consistent crosser processing times, and more
responsive customer service, among others. These changes also apply to
Mexican customs and immigration.
The Customs and Border Protection monthly Passenger Meeting on November
10 brought together top officers and medical experts including Dr. Eric
McDonald, San Diego County Deputy Public Health Officer. Anne Maricich,
Acting Director of Field Operations, chaired the meeting.
Our coalition has been asking about criteria for lifting the non-essential crossing restrictions. Anne commented as follows:
- CBP pays close attention to regional Centers for Disease Control (CDC) communications and decisions pertaining to public health.
- COVID positivity rates in San Diego County as well as hospital capacity are indicators CBP closely follows.
- CBP has an objective to match staff with demand at the ports.
- The decision to lift restrictions is done at the federal level, so local CBP has no say. Local CBP, however, does have authority to open lanes and expand hours of operation.
On another note, the Tecate Port of Entry will have new schedules once restrictions have been lifted, from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to midnight, Saturday and Sunday.
The San Ysidro – PedWest pedestrian crossing is still not needed based on only 50% of pedestrians crossing these days through the rest of the regional ports, but once reopened operating hours will be from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Simplified arrival set-up for the CBX Cross Border Xpress air terminal is taking shape. IS IT WORTH SPECIFYING WHAT “ARRIVAL SET-UP” MEANS?
Waits continue to be long for Global Entry applications (44 weeks), SENTRI (57 weeks). New vehicle registration in SENTRI is taking 4 weeks.
Dr. McDonald spoke about the 60,000 COVID cases in the county, over 900 deaths, and a spike in cases to between 400 and 500 per day. 74% of people tested for COVID at the border are U.S. residents, 8-9% of those have been positive, which is three times higher than in most areas of San Diego.
The Border Innovation Challenge run by UCSD’s Rady School of Management and Jacobs School of Engineering, supported by our coalition and sponsored by our members Malin Burnham, Steve Williams, Lorenzo Berho and Elias Laniado will take place this Tuesday, December 1st from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Please register at https://ucsd.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Tvv1LE9sQJiBsh5kY2UdmQ to receive the Zoom link and join us on December 1st!
Alan Lilienthal, host of the KPBS pod cast “Port of Entry”, will emcee
I was excited to see the diversity of topics and panelists at San Diego State University’s re:Border, “Our Border on the Move” Conference on November 12th and 13th. The conference taught us about the common challenges of our geographic vicinity proximity? and our economic ties. It was also a forum to strengthen our social and cultural.
The forum was cast both as a space for dialogue and reflection about the work of social organizations in our communities, mainly with the migrant populations that flee violence in their countries, and as a space that highlights the use and protection of our shared natural resources.
The topics covered weren’t only about migration processes, transborder employment, or trade. Mobility in the cross-border world has exposed other dimensions such as both public health and its impact on our binational community and cross-border planning to enable more efficient flows of people and goods. For example, it was astounding for me to hear that one-third of all caregivers in San Diego live south of the border.
In addition, there are complex topics that need interdisciplinary vision, and this has opened opportunities for cooperation between institutions of higher learning on both sides of the border. It is here that SDSU, El Colegio de la Frontera (COLEF) and Universidad Autónoma de Baja California (UABC) have been pioneers.
Paola Avila, long-time coalition Stakeholder and former VP for international affairs at the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce has been named chief of staff for Mayor-Elect Todd Gloria. I have known and worked with Paola for years. She has been an important leader in the binational region and in U.S.- Mexican border organizations. She has a deep understanding of the actors on both sides of the border. Her sensitivity to the issues will be critical as the new mayor deepens ties with Tijuana and Baja California as a whole. Congratulations, Paola!
The Border Trade Alliance held its board meeting on November 12. (www.thebta.org). Among the many topics discussed, there is a clear need for the organization to push for the renewal of the Donation Acceptance Program, a program developed by CBP to allow for private and public entities to donate services, land, and assets in general to CBP in return for better services (https://www.cbp.gov/border-security/ports-entry/resource-optstrategy/public-private-partnerships/donation-acceptance-program).
Port of entry wait times are on the docket now, more than ever. Though CBP states that wait times are improving or are under control most times, it was evident that BTA members are frustrated over what “wait time” means, where it starts and where it ends.
The Israel-Mexico Business Mission arranged by the Tijuana Economic
Development Corporation last week featured rich content from Israeli
companies doing cutting edge work in several fields. I was fortunate to have
listened to the Broadmann 17 presentation, the “Next generation of
perception software for automated driving” (https://brodmann17.com/) and
Bringoz, a Software as a Service (Saas) logistics platform providing an end-toend, scalable delivery infrastructure (https://www.bringoz.com/).
I am amazed at how resourceful and dynamic Israeli tech companies are. Even though Broadmann 17 is still not doing any work at the border and recognizes its need to better understand it, I wouldn’t doubt they will be here soon. Bringoz is already doing business in Mexico and the U.S., though the border is still not a focus.
I participated as panelist at Baja IT Cluster’s “Smart City Borderless Conference” along with Alma Cabanillas, CEO of Nissan Baja Group, Myrna Bittner of Runwithit Synthetics, Alberto Gutierrez, director and founder of design and construction group Espazio, and Raul Corona, Director of Tijuana’s Institute of Sustainable Mobility. The topic was “The Challenge of Smart 5 Mobility for Transportation and Urban Development.” Please see https://smartcityborderless.com/
South County EDC’s Binational Commission
(https://www.southcountyedc.com/) is starting to show some muscle. Its chair,
Miguel Aguirre, has thankfully come back from an illness and has been a strong
chair. Flavio Olivieri, consultant to Border Fusion
(https://borderfusion.global/about), a group headed by Miguel that looks to
change the way travelers see the border, has added the right combination of
expertise and listening ability to enhance the group.
The North American Strategy for Competitiveness, of which our coalition is a proud member, succeeded in organizing a much-needed post-election webinar, where a familiar face in our region, Michael Camúñez (https://monarchglobal.com/), shared the stage with Dan Ujczo, international trade and transportation lawyer and Andrea van Vugt, global director of Harper Associates (Canada).
Michael views the election results generally good for Mexico, even a sign of relief. He sees a return to a much more institutional “whole of government” approach with the Biden administration. Biden is deeply knowledgeable about the Latin American region.
However, the U.S. is experiencing a time of maximum crisis, potentially overwhelmed by competing priorities, with huge economic problems and the overlay of the pandemic. China’s move to lead the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a direct result of the U.S.’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The question North American countries should ask ourselves is: How can we cooperate to counteract China’s version of a trade pact in Asia?
Stakeholder Gustavo Rios is a career construction attorney who bravely launched a new restaurant as the pandemic swept over the country. In August he and his partner, Sal Busalacchi, opened Trattoria Don Pietro in Old Town San Diego, serving traditional Sicilian cuisine. They have been diligent in respecting coronavirus protocols and can still seat about 50% of full capacity safely.
In outfitting his operation, Gustavo benefitted by going to suppliers located across the border. Ordering tables and upholstery items from Rodriguez Carpinteria in Rosarito and Tapiceria America and Champion's Tapiceria in Tijuana. The Mexican vendors were able to produce items in a fraction of the time required by their American competitors. Good luck to Gustavo!
My participation at the George W. Bush Institute’s Border Policy Group has been a worthwhile experience primarily because of the members’ level of expertise. One data point I heard was that Customs and Border Protection and Border Patrol have 28 security metrics in place to evaluate their security performance. Paul Anstine of Leidos (https://www.leidos.com/) put these indicators together for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2016 when he was staff director in the U.S. Congress, on the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security.
The issue that I see is that the metrics focus on interdiction (apprehensions of people and illegal goods). Efficiency for traveler and cargo processing hardly figures in the scheme (https://www.c-span.org/video/?325329-1/discussionborder-security-immigration-enforcement).
Some weeks ago I took a relative to get blood work done in Tijuana at Certus Lab (https://certuslab.com.mx/), a Tijuana-based lab similar to Quest Diagnostics or Labcorp. I was pleasantly surprised with the operation’s level of professionalism, cleanliness and order.
During this pandemic labs’ profiles have risen for citizens from both sides of the border. COVID testing has become a huge draw these days. Certus Lab founder and owner Maria Eugenia Acevedo has built a small empire over the last 25 years, with labs in all Baja California cities.
The company has over 200 employees, serves over 12,000 patients per month, and does over one million studies each year. Acevedo has won awards for quality on a state and national level and dreams of Certus becoming the best laboratory in Mexico. She and her team seem to be well on their way.
The Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies convened the “Emerging Stronger Together” group once again on November 17 to discuss food insecurity. It turns out that before the pandemic, 1 in 7 people in San Diego County had food insecurity. Today, that figure is 2 in 7, or almost 30%.
The average annual salary of an essential food worker in our region is $28,000. Farm workers in San Joaquin Valley and the Imperial Valley have been much more affected with COVID infections than any other county or region in California.
He was an extremely distinguished architect, having founded the first Open School of Architecture in Mexico. He was also a prolific sculptor, having designed the fountain statue in Tijuana’s Cultural Center (CECUT), another at the Hospital Infantil de las Californias, and many others. He spoke 10 languages. Many considered him a genius.
With best wishes,
Gustavo De La Fuente Executive Director