*2019 Crossing Stats Available Visit: https://smartbordercoalition.com/blog/facts-and-figures
WAIT TIMES INTO THE U.S. San Ysidro - All Traffic: Vehicles: 0:55 Pedestrians: no delay Ready Lanes: Vehicles: 0:40 Pedestrians: no delay Sentri Lanes: Vehicles: 0:10
Otay Mesa - All Traffic: Vehicles: 0:20 Pedestrians: no delay Ready Lanes: Vehicles: 0:20 Pedestrians: N/A Sentri Lanes: Vehicles: Lanes Closed Cargo Standard: 0:15 Cargo FAST: 0:10
Tecate - All Traffic: Vehicles: 0:20 Pedestrians: no delay Ready Lanes: Vehicles: N/A Pedestrians: N/A Sentri Lanes: Vehicles: N/A
WAIT TIMES INTO MEXICO Tijuana - I-5: I-805: No Wait

COVID-19 Bulletin December 18, 2020

Category: SBC Bulletins

In these final days of 2020, I want to express my deepest appreciation to many  people who have been a part of our coalition, from those of you who attended  our virtual meetings, to others who read us and sent us opinions, to some who  talk to us seeking connections, alliances, or recommendations, and others who  are very forward with proposals to improve our border.  

I want to extend a special thank-you to our board members. I wouldn’t be  writing these lines if they had not generously contributed to our organization.  They have been an inspiration to me and, in many ways, examples to follow. 

Especially now, with the intensity of the pandemic weighing upon us but with  the light of the vaccine at the end of the tunnel, we must be rigorous in  following the practices to keep us safe. 


I’d like to recognize several of our board members for appearing in San Diego  Business Journal’s “SD500: The Most Influential People in San Diego” for  2020. Malin Burnham and Mary Walshok appear under the “Icons” category.  

Steve Williams is part of the “Real Estate” group; Brad Feldman, CEO of Cubic  Corporation, is under “Leading Industries”; UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla  appears under “Education;” and Barbara Wight of Taylor Guitars is seen in the  “Leading Industries” category.  


I admire the consistency with which Rafael Fernandez de Castro has continued  with the Center of U.S.-Mexican Studies “Emerging Stronger Together” dialogue. In early December I participated in the latest session on immigration  flows. Rafael knows more about this topic than just about anyone else.  

He stated point blank that a good part of the recent immigrant population  under the Migration Protection Protocols—more informally known as “Return to Mexico”—in Tijuana are left to their own devices to survive and are at times  detained by the police.  

They do not arrive in specifically designed shelters but hotels and childcare  facilities. Those waiting for their day in court continue waiting, with no end in  sight. Many do not even have a secure address to receive important  documents from their U.S. attorneys.  


Congratulations are in order for Mario Orso and his team at CALTRANS for the  start of construction on the southbound State Route 125 to the westbound  State Route 905 connector and the recent award of more than $40 million in  California Transportation Commission Trade Corridor Enhancement Program  funding.  


San Diego Regional Chamber’s International Tribute Awards recognized  Ienova (ienova.com.mx/, a subsidiary of Sempra Energy and coalition member)  for its investment in the region, humanitarian assistance, and stewardship of so 


many non-profits. Their Energía Costa Azul (ecalng.com/es) Liquefied Natural  Gas Plant project represents a $2-billion investment that will generate 10,000  jobs for the Ensenada area. The company will also expand its windfarm  facilities in Tecate.  


The Tijuana Local Development Council received State of Baja approval to  launch the first phase of the wait-time reader project. The phase will test  readers in the vicinity of the San Ysidro Port of Entry before moving on to  

phase two, which specifies installing the readers in the rest of the port,  processing the data collected, and producing the analytics that the council  requires. I am heading up the council’s binational axis and am looking forward  to bringing this project to fruition.  


Our friends at the Border Trade Alliance (thebta.org) informed us that the  National Defense Authorization Act is now headed for President Trump’s  signature. The annual defense spending package has transportation and logistics provisions and language that would require the U.S. Department of  Homeland Security to develop a plan for eventually scanning all vehicles and  freight trains entering the country with non-intrusive inspection equipment  instead of relying on physical inspections by agents. 

The Border Trade Alliance is also supporting a bipartisan effort led by Sen.  John Cornyn, R-Texas, that urges Congress not to include a provision in the  year-end spending bill that would erode the economic power of the country’s  Foreign Trade Zones and make U.S.-based manufacturers less globally  competitive. The BTA states in its December 16 press release that “Rolling back  USMCA’s FTZ provisions would be the equivalent of a $2 billion tax increase  according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.” 


The final event of our Border Innovation Challenge 

(rady.ucsd.edu/centers/ciid/border-innovation-challenge/index.html) on  December 1st was hosted by Alan Lilienthal, host of the KPBS podcast “Port of 


Entry” and included judges from outside organizations that were selected by  our coalition, Rady School of Management, and Institute for the Global  Entrepreneur. Judges evaluated each presentation on technology/product,  market opportunity, and impact on border issues/security efficiency. In  addition, the audience chose their favorite. 

The winners were: 

Grand Prize ($7,000) - Luna Diagnostic, a rapid and affordable COVID-19  diagnostic at the border. 

Runner Up ($3,500) - Smart Border System, a scheduled cross-border  commuting platform supported by digital and physical infrastructure for  queues management. 

Audience Choice ($2,000) - Tijuana Solar River, the revitalization of the Tijuana  River channel as a solar power farm and binational water remediation  infrastructure. A project that brings back the river canal to Tijuana communities  with pedestrians and public spaces along the 11-mile channel. 


Our Coalition’s Board of Directors meeting took place on December 3.  California Transportation Secretary David Kim joined us and gave us some very  positive news: 

$2 billion for new transportation-related projects that will add 100,000  new jobs. This money is coming from SB1 Funds (based on a California  gas tax).  

o $42.5 million for the Otay Mesa East Port of Entry 

o $22.7 million for the La Media Road improvement project for  freight truck access to the current Otay Mesa Port of Entry. 

o $7.5 million for Calexico East Port of Entry bridge widening project.  o $106 million toward the LOSSAN (San Luis Obispo-Los Angeles-San  Diego) Rail Corridor. This route has the secondhighest ridership in  the country! 

Relationship with Mexico:


o Secretary Kim wrote current Minister Arganis of the  

Communications and Transportation Secretariat (SCT) to discuss  Otay Mesa East Port of Entry. 

o He held a recent meeting with SCT to create a standing binational  border infrastructure policy working group; proposed a quarterly  meeting to track milestones and resolve policy issues for the port  and for other border projects. 

o He is working with Mexico to execute a shared vision agreement  that will dig into details such as milestones, tolling facilities, and  the framework for developing toll revenue-sharing policies.  


SAT (the Mexican customs agency) received a visit from a top official with an  order to make the agency’s PITA (Proyecto de Integración Tecnológica  Aduanera) program mandatory. The program allows truckers to cross through  Aduanas in Mexico to the U.S. or from the U.S. into Aduanas without the need  for a human agent, using a digital identification for themselves and their  merchandise. At issue, however, is that this program had not been mandatory,  so only a small fraction of all carriers have been using it.  

On the weekend of December 4th, and in various intervals, most southbound  lanes were assigned PITA status, creating 5-mile long lines, some of the longest ever seen. Needless to say, SAT has had to backtrack. One wonders why these  things happen, but it is another example of the lack of federal and local  coordination inside agencies and lack of sensitivity to local impact. This has  been a problem on both sides of the border on far too many occasions. 


The George W. Bush Institute North America (bushcenter.org/northamerica)  meetings continue to happen. Our participation in both the general group as  well as in the border policy working group has been more forceful. 

The institute’s border policy group believes that a “border management  framework offers the best vehicle for addressing the challenges at the U.S.-


Mexico border in a way that simultaneously maximizes the economic benefits  of trade and secures both countries against illicit movements of goods or  persons.” I have attempted to bring the movement of people into the  conversation as well, in addition to economic and law enforcement  considerations. 

The larger group is coming up with an “actionable list of recommendations  that can be taken to the Competitiveness Committee of the new USMCA and  shared with the public and private sectors across the continent.” There are five  topics for consideration. More to come next year!  


Rita Fernandez is the new Director of Global Affairs for the City of San Diego.  We congratulate her on her appointment. She replaces a dear friend of the  coalition, Denice Garcia, who was a very effective, resourceful, and tireless  developer of the Baja California and Mexico relationship. Rita was recently  Immigrant Affairs Manager under Mayor Faulconer and previous to that she  was Associate Director of Immigrant Affairs at the Office of Mayor Eric  Garcetti of Los Angeles. She was also Press Aide for Rep. Juan Vargas. 


My colleagues Vincent Blocker and Miguel Gama continue to support our  coalition in our efforts to campaign for “El Tercer Pais: San Diego & Tijuana.  Two Countries. Two Cities. One Community.” We recently teamed up with  Warwicks Bookstore (https://www.warwicks.com/event/malone-2020) to do a  Facebook Live interview with the author, Michael Malone. Melissa Floca did a  superb job of interviewing him.  

By the way, Melissa is now Program Officer for Cross Border Programs at the  University of San Diego’s Kroc School of Peace Studies. Congratulations!  

As part of our activities for “El Tercer Pais”, we have come out with two short  videos to support the launch and give thanks to Smart Border Coalition  members who sponsored the book. Please see videos in English and Spanish by  clicking on this link: youtube.com/results?search_query=smartbordercoalition



There are very few people in the southwestern United States who know more  about the real estate business than Stath Karras, Executive Director at the  Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate at USD 

(sandiego.edu/business/centers-and-institutes/burnham-moores-real-estate/).  He was Executive Managing Director of Cushman Wakefield for seven years  and spent 27 years with Burnham Real Estate Services. Stath and I had a  productive conversation about the coalition and binational data opportunities.  


Yolanda Walther-Meade surely takes after her mother and namesake. She has  been a huge proponent of the binational relationship, choosing to concentrate  her efforts in raising awareness about separated and reunified families and  children at the border and helps with essentials for living, access to legal  services, mental wellness checkups, construction projects at shelters, and  critical needs for unaccompanied minors.  

Yolanda’s fund is called “This is About Humanity” (thisisabouthumanity.com/)  and is housed at The International Community Foundation 

(https://icfdn.org/?s=this+is+about+humanity). Yolanda and her colleagues  have raised over $1 million for vulnerable border communities since 2018! 


Our next online Stakeholders Working Committee meeting will convene on  Zoom on January 7th from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. The coalition warmly welcomes  broad, open participation by all U.S. and Mexican (and all other) parties  interested in port of entry operations from any perspective. It will be the first meeting of 2021. Please register at:  

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZArfu2tqzMsEtL39dQ6dNBJ0eHIZj vyXjnj 

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information  about joining the meeting.


Please join us then!  

I wish you and your families a healthy holiday season and a truly prosperous  2021. We all need it!  

Gustavo De La Fuente 

Executive Director 


(619) 814-1386