March 25, 2021
The War in the Ukraine is having consequences at our border. With over 3 million Ukrainian refugees fleeing
to Europe and many of those trying to reach the United States, thousands are
making their way to Mexico through Cancun and Mexico City, with California as a
final destination. Ukrainians are now walking up to the U.S. border at the San
Ysidro and Otay Mesa ports of entry. After some initial obstacles at our ports,
they are being admitted as asylum seekers so long as they show valid
documentation. This has created some resentment from NGOs and immigration groups
who support asylum seekers from other parts of the world.
With the increasing possibility of Title 42 being lifted in April, refugees from multiple countries
will want to pressure authorities on both sides of the border to act quickly to
facilitate their entry into the United States. Title 42 is a clause in the 1944
Public Health Services Law that gave the U.S. Surgeon General, later the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, the authority to determine if a disease in a foreign country can
cause a serious threat of spreading in the U.S. by people or property entering
the country. The clause has been used prevent admission into the U.S. for the
last 2 years.
Pressures from migrants at the border affect
the day-to-day commutes of eligible travelers, making their trips longer and
even more dangerous. Customs, immigration, state and local authorities from
both sides have opened a serious dialogue to prevent escalation of violence or
scuffles at the ports, disrupting daily commuters. Offering migrants food and
shelter and organizing them in a way that does not disrupt our ports is a good
The El Tercer País
book relaunch last week was a resounding success. The first of the binational
events that took the book to new heights was at UCSD’s downtown campus on Market Street. The new 4-story building
is truly a well-planned addition to UCSD’s community outreach, a strategic
decision that will connect this great university to the rest of San Diego and
to Baja California.
Before an audience of 150 guests, UT San Diego reporter and border expert Wendy Fry interviewed author Michael
S. Malone in the first hour. Michael did not disappoint. It turns out that
a Bay Area reporter-turned-author-turned investor knows more about our border
and its people than most people I know. Michael had three key insights: we must
work to change our image to reflect a thriving and dynamic binational
powerhouse, we must create a strong entrepreneurial culture and we need to make
sure capital is available to support entrepreneurs to create a real
cross-border entrepreneurial ecosystem we can brand to the world.
I was fortunate to participate in the “Where do we go
from here?” panel that Alan Bersin
so aptly moderated. I thank my colleagues Mary
Walshok, Alejandra Mier y Teran, Michèle
Morris, and Michael Malone
for their opinions and conversation.
2 of the book tour took us to the Tijuana “Club
de Empresarios” breakfast and discussion with the likes of José Galicot, Alan Bersin, David Pérez Tejada (representing the
State Government of Baja California), City of Imperial Beach Councilmember Paloma
Aguirre, Michael Malone and James
The third leg of the book’s outreach was at CETYS Universidad, where Chancellor Dr. Fernando León García
welcomed guests, and where Alan Bersin once again moderated a “Where do we go
from here?” panel with Paty Hernández of the Tijuana EDC, Eduardo Cabrera of the Smart Border System, and Flavio Olivieri of Border Fusion and Tijuana
Many thanks to Sophia
Eichner for her precision in coordinating the San Diego event and Laura Araujo for her organization of the
Tijuana events. Laura has been a steady and quite effective binational leader
and advocate for many binational connections in her career.
I had a very informative
visit to the Port of Ensenada last week. Captain Manuel Fernando Gutiérrez
Gallardo was our gracious host. The Port is taking steps to connect with
the Port of San Diego in a much more intentional and practical way by doing
all it can to make a ferry between Ensenada and San Diego possible. The
possibility seemed remote just six months ago, but through the support of the
Baja California State Government, there is a great possibility for this
connection to happen.
Many Ensenadans and
Southern California tourists frequently remind us that they do not want to
spend 2 hours on the road to the border and then another 2-3 hours just to
cross it. Why not provide them a 2-hour direct trip from port to port,
bypassing Tijuana and in the process helping to reduce congestion at the ports
of entry? There is much more to come from this opportunity.
Affairs Board for the City of San
Diego had its retreat on March 17th. I have been on the board
since the fall of last year. The group works with the Office of the Mayor to build on its status as a world-class city to
become a global city by 2030. The City builds its world-class status in five
key ways. Two of the critical ones are economic
opportunity which is about expanding opportunities for international trade
and foreign direct investment while promoting economic equity. The second way
is international engagement which
translates into city diplomacy focused on commercial, cultural, and political
I met with an Israeli
delegation last week to discuss the Smart Border Coalition and common
points of interest in mobility technology, water treatment and capital sources
for cross-border projects. I thank Miri
Ketayi, Director of Israel and
Overseas for Jewish in San Diego (
I appreciated listening to Moran Zilbershtein, Consul
Head of Economic and Commercial Mission West Coast USA for the Government of Israel, on opportunities
for engagement with firms, foundations, private capital and business
association eager to strengthen ties between CaliBaja and Israel.
One of the best examples of collaboration is SouthUp (
I also want to recognize ThermoFisher Scientific for its incredible facilities in Carlsbad.
I was part of a group of people from Mexico’s main genetics and pharmaceutical
company associations along with State of Baja California representatives. At
one point, and if I understood correctly, 60% of the enzymes used in worldwide
Covid-19 vaccines were being produced in this facility!
Consulate in San Diego led by Consul
General Carlos González
coordinated these meetings as part of its effort to have a Mexican pavilion at
the upcoming BIO Conference (
The final meeting was a luncheon at Procopio (
Crosser Experience Group continues to meet and has sent out three important
letters to the Department of Homeland
Security/CBP, our Congressional
Delegation and Vice President Harris,
calling their attention to and asking for concrete responses by the time we
arrive in Washington, D.C. next week as part of the yearly delegation led by
the San Diego Regional Chamber of
As leading advocates for the
binational community, dedicated to growing cross-border relationships, commerce
and trade in the San Diego and the Baja California region, we believe that the
way ports are managed requires a revamp.
We urge them to identify current and future
staffing funding needs to guarantee an efficient, reliable, and secure border
that facilitates trade and tourism while also prioritizing national security.
We let them know it is critical to implement
key performance indicators (KPI) for CBP that allow proper tracking and
measurement of port of entry efficiencies. We believe there must be a balance
between the agency’s security mission and eligible traveler need for
We say that it is equally important to
understand the traveler crossing experience when it comes to their interactions
with CBP officers at booths and at secondary, as this is the first interaction
travelers have when entering the country.
Finally, because we understand the value of
technology and infrastructure in facilitating a more secure and efficient
crossing experience, we urge them to work with us to develop programs that will
create new approaches for risk assessment at land ports.
The letter to Vice President Harris is more emotionally
charged, asking for White House involvement with DHS to make sure our border is
given the attention and solutions it needs.
As a reminder from our last bulletin, Mexican Chef Pati Jinich is preparing a food/border
narrative extravaganza this fall, when a cohort of Tijuana and San Diego
friends hopes to bring her here to record her highly successful “La Frontera”
program which aired nationally on PBS in 150 cities last year and had over 1.3
million views in its first showing. That show was about border culture and food
from El Paso/Juárez to Laredo/Nuevo Laredo.
This time, the show will feature the Western border,
focusing on CaliBaja (please see
Pati has won the prestigious James Beard Award, recognizing culinary professionals in the Unites
States, 3 times and is a New York Times
best-selling author, among many other accomplishments.
Surfrider Foundation (
Though the group has a strong presence in the U.S., being
one of the organizations that filed a lawsuit against the International
Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC,
Both David Pérez Tejada of
the Baja California Binational Affairs Office and I met
with Trisha Mejía, Campaign Manager for
Clean Border Water Now.
The Smart Border Coalition
Board Meeting at Quartz Hotel in Tijuana featured some
familiar faces making a big splash in how we governments get things done. Secretary
of Economy and Innovation Kurt Honold spoke about the variety
of infrastructure projects the State is working on including a ferry to
transport people and vehicles from Ensenada to San Diego and a trolley that
would take Tijuanans to the San Ysidro Port of Entry where they would cross the
border using a CBX-like facility.
These projects are undergoing
feasibility studies. They are part of the State Government’s mobility
innovation efforts. Honold described the Governor’s desire to connect in an
unprecedented way to California, creating a binational team consisting of David
Pérez Tejada as Binational Affairs Director and yours
truly as Director of International Projects in the Office of ProBaja in
For her part, Supervisor
Nora Vargas described the many initiatives she has led, including air
pollution control efforts between the California Air Resources Board and
the San Diego County Air Pollution Control District; a binational water
management task force; and vaccination efforts at El Chaparral. Vargas has been
very consistent with a message about social equity and environmental justice.
She comes off as a true defender of those who are continually left behind in
South County because of their socio-economic status, education level or
We also listened to an
interview I had with Alan Bersin, former “Border Czar” under President
Biden, one among many of his significant roles in government and education.
Alan has a way with words. He is quite articulate and speaks thoughtfully. He
delivered a message about what needs to happen in terms of the way people cross
the land ports of entry, tying it to a new way of addressing frequent “known”
crossers at our ports. If we know that over 70% of all travelers cross the
border 5-7 times each week, why would they be subject to the same kind of
scrutiny than someone who crosses once every year?
Bersin spoke about virtually
moving back the Ready Lane concept to vet travelers using pre-clearance
technology available today. This could happen by asking travelers to reserve
their spot in line so long as they supply their information before they drive
to the border.
What’s more, out of all the
data we would have we could segment travelers into new groups of crossers, e.g.,
workers, students, shoppers, perhaps replacing the All-Traffic, Ready Lane and
SENTRI lane types!
Many thanks to our California
Legislature and CalEPA hosts for the dialogue we had about the use
of new funds in the California budget to improve water management in watersheds
in Baja California. Sacramento gets it. Several Assembly members including Eduardo
Medina and Chris Ward have
realized that through funding and collaboration we can help our cause.
Mexicali’s New River is a
highly polluted watershed and so is the Tijuana River. Doing prevention work
only on the U.S. side of the border will not get to the root cause. Challenges
like water and air must be solved bi-nationally.
I’d like to salute the efforts
the Center for US-Mexican Studies and the Institute of the Americas have
made to support the relaunch of the Commission of the Californias
(COMCAL). Directors Rafael Fernández
de Castro and Richard Kiy command
a great deal of respect. Their creativity and openness will help empower COMCAL
to new heights.
COMCAL was conceived in 1964 as
a mechanism by which the three Californias would have substantive dialogue and
cooperation in the areas of public health, transportation and infrastructure,
economic development, tourism, education, emergency services, agriculture, and
I have been tasked to
coordinate this new phase in the California-Baja California-Baja California Sur
relationship. Part of the coordination involves aligning state governments, but
it is only by seeking the cooperation of civil society and academia that COMCAL
will be truly successful.
Our Stakeholders Working
Committee Meeting on March 3rd featured Jorge
Goytortúa, CEO of
Cross Border Xpress, Miguel Aguíñiga, Tourism Secretary of Baja California, Liane Randolph, Chair, California Air
Resources Board (CARB), and Michèle Morris and Carlos Cristiani of the World Design
Capital Coordinating Group.
Goytortúa described the significance of traffic through the
Tijuana airport and CBX’s role in putting the airport in fourth place
nationally in terms of number of passengers. CBX on its own would be the 8th
largest airport in Mexico! He also spoke
about the importance of the new processing center and gate areas which will
thoroughly enhance the CBX and airport experience.
Secretary Aguíñiga sees the potential of
the new processing facility to allow global travelers to visit either Tijuana
or San Diego and only going through one customs and immigration check instead
of two. Imagine you are in Panama and take a flight to San Diego but land in Tijuana
and present your documents once with CBP, bypassing Mexican immigration.
shared CARB’s interest in taking up the issue of long lines at the border and
the pollution vehicles generate, giving the topic of air pollution the
importance it deserves. Michèle Morris
and Carlos Cristiani capped off the
meeting with an explanation about next steps for the World Design Capital
Coordinating Group. The effort now goes into hard core planning and action
starting as soon as 2023 in preparation for 2024.
Our next online Stakeholders
Working Committee meeting will convene on May 12th from 9:00a.m. to
11:00a.m. at the UCSD Downtown Campus. This will be in-person only. Please
Gustavo De La Fuente
/ (619) 814-1386