June 30, 2022
We are finishing the first half of 2022 with
many more questions about the future of our border than on December 31st. Back then inflation was not a “thing”, gas
prices were not part of the daily conversation, we did not have a war in Europe,
and “global recession” was a little known item. We were ringing in the New Year
with the clear hope that as the pandemic subsided we would see better days at
our ports of entry in terms of smoother crossings and lower average wait
times. The permanence of Title 42 was
not being put into question, keeping border migration pressure at bay.
How things have changed in 180 days. Inflation
is the worst it has been in 40 years in the U.S., and Mexico has not seen this
inflation since the end of the 80s. Title 42 is hanging by a thread; war has
caused unprecedented volumes of Eastern European and Russian migrants coming to
our border, affecting how ports are managed; and port staffing shortages will
be with us for the foreseeable future, affecting average wait times.
Despite all this, there are many telling
examples of resilience. The port of Otay Mesa East is moving forward on both
sides of the border. CBX just opened a state-of-the-art processing facility.
Customs and Border Protection launched its simplified arrival project and is
gearing up for a SENTRI reservation pilot program. The Baja California
Government is all hands on deck with innovative border mobility projects. Our
region has a strong committee behind the World Design Capital designation
awarded to San Diego and Tijuana late last year.
On behalf of the Smart Border Coalition I’d like to
welcome the new Director for the San
Ysidro Port of Entry, Mariza Marin.
Ms. Marin is a veteran of the agency and knows the region well. Mariza has
struck me as a very hands-on and practical decision maker, a leader at the
right time in the right place.
She comes in at a very sensitive time when there is a
growing concern about individuals not using the formal asylum/refugee process
to enter the United States and resorting to aggressive tactics to cross the
border at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
In the month of April alone, there were 1,600 foreigners who attempted to
forcefully get to the agent booths to declare asylum. This is the main reason
that CBP is using choke points approximately 30 yards before booths.
There is also the possibility of lifting Title 42, increasing the likelihood
that we will see many more undocumented migrant attempts to cross the
Wait times have not been decreasing in a consistent way,
adding to the uncertainty. By late May, the port had reached 90% of pre-COVID
There is a process to seek asylum and that has been the
result of CBP collaborating with NGOs such as “Al Otro Lado” ()
and “Border Angels” (
and Border Protection will be starting a SENTRI reservation pilot at the end of July at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. Pedestrians
in the 4:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. time frame will be able to use the CBP One App, upload their information,
including their picture, and come across at a specified time.
This is the first port where this kind of technology will
be tested. The goal is twofold: to optimize the use of CBP agents using a
sophisticated AI system and making the crossing experience a more seamless one
Pedestrians who reserve their spot will enter Pedestrian Crossing East (PedEast) as they always do, except
that the line will be divided into the “regular” SENTRI crossers and those with
reservations. Pedestrians will see a green light or red light when they arrive
at the booth.
Hopefully, there will be a time when there will be no
agents at the booth(s) used for pedestrians, and they will simply be able to
take a quick picture which will be compared with a gallery in the CBP system.
We’ve said many times that this is the future of land
border crossings. Once the model is proven at the pedestrian level in SENTRI,
it would expand to other lane types. In a second phase it may be used to vet
Kudos to Professor
David Shirk of USD and his explanation of the “CaliBaja Regional
Economy” report at our board meeting in May. The report is in some ways a response to the High Level Economic Dialogue going on at
the federal level and asks the question: How can we better understand the health
and areas of strength of our cross-border region?
study uses NAICS (North American
Industry Classification) codes and the concept of location quotient, meaning the concentration of jobs in a certain
industry in our region when compared to the concentration in the same industry
in the rest of the U.S. and Mexico.
shows much higher than average employee concentrations in several industries including
audio audio/video equipment, manufacturing and medical devices, semiconductors
and aerospace. The top ten cases add $17 billion annually to our regional
An important message was
that we need to facilitate more seamless flows of people and goods across our
border. Thus, improving cross-border infrastructure is critical. There is also
the opportunity to expand into new industries such as shipbuilding and
pharmaceuticals that currently have a large San Diego footprint but little or
no Tijuana presence, though one could make the case for an interconnection
based on the many employees in both of these industries who actually live in
Tijuana, commuting to work every day.
We must have an ongoing
initiative of economic studies on trade dynamics. This is a never-ending kind
of project that takes great effort and resources. Measuring integration within
each industry is possible but costly and time consuming. We could start by focusing
on specific industries, working with suppliers and producers to understand how
much of a cross-border integration there is.
Andrews is a Senior Manager
for Government Affairs at Illumina (),
a great San Diego company that applies “innovative technologies to the analysis of genetic
variation and function, making studies possible that were not even imaginable
just a few years ago”. I had a
conversation with her in recent days. The company is in the midst of creating a
Chilean and a Brazilian genome project which will let them better understand
the genetic makeup of both countries’ populations to facilitate earlier
diagnostics and smarter treatments of certain diseases.
begs the question: Why are we not doing a CaliBaja
genome project? Why not use a study like this to start preventing or
reducing the incidence of Tuberculosis or diabetes which are so prevalent in
our region? The answer, I think, is three-fold. For one, our binational
community is not as aware of the capabilities our regional companies have. We
simply do not know them well enough to ask them to support our region in
specific ways. Second, we tend to view our up-and-coming technology companies
as ivory towers where the CaliBaja discussion is not even a consideration or
that these companies are too busy with other pressing business matters to get
involved with our region. Third, companies like Illumina may not see interest
from federal governments. The current Mexican federal government has not been
known to warm up to science or scientific discussion as much as previous
this does not mean we could not approach our governments at the state level to
find common ground on launching a project to better understand our community’s
Congratulations to the South County EDC for launching its first binational forum at
Southwestern College on June 1st.
The College’s President, Dr. Mark
Sanchez, unveiled an initiative to attract students from UABC (Baja California Autonomous
University) at in-state tuition rates, making it more affordable to get joint
U.S. and Mexico degrees. He also called on UCSD
and SDSU to expand their footprint
with students from Mexico.
Tapping into talent on both sides of the border means
translating challenges into academic programs for the skills and jobs of the
near future. Many Hispanics are challenged to assess the best educational
opportunities, and with 50% of all 7th graders in San Diego County
today being Hispanic, finding more practical ways to guide these young people
will be critical.
Having multiple pathways for people to educate themselves
that do not commit them to 4-year degrees was a discussion topic. Rachel Merfalen, Director of Business
Experience for the San Diego Workforce Partnership, spoke on the topic of
credentialing for yearly, monthly or bi-monthly programs for people in the
lower and middle-income brackets looking for practical knowledge. Also, she
recommended an articulation of a binational curriculum between U.S. and Mexican
higher education institutions along our border.
Honold, the Baja California
Economy and Innovation Secretary,
stated that one of our region’s challenges is to teach subjects and topics that
best reflect job availability. His
remarks focused on several mobility projects that the state government believes
will put less pressure on land ports of entry, beginning with the “CBX Trolley”
concept of using a train to transport crossers to the San Ysidro Port of Entry
and a CBX-like structure to make their way across. Honold also discussed a
ferry from Ensenada to San Diego, and the Punta Colonet port and multimodal
facility to lessen port traffic at Long Beach and Los Angeles ports. The latter are some of the 21 strategic
infrastructure projects the State of Baja California is considering.
He sees great promise in the lithium industry for Baja
California. Lithium can be mined in the Cerro
Prieto area west of Mexicali. Honold sees a possibility in battery storage
factories for both the U.S. and Mexican markets. He also described the evolution
towards U.S. banks financing homes in Mexico for U.S. citizens. Finally, for
what concerns Baja’s water needs, he stated that the State wants to facilitate
the building of 4 desalination plants: one in Rosarito, 2 in San Quintín and
1 in Ensenada.
The Center for
U.S.-Mexican Studies at UCSD put
on quite a show for its “U.S.-Mexico
Forum 2025.” I don’t believe we had ever had this many experts on the
binational relationship in San Diego. From scholars such as Giovanni Peri of UC Davis to María
Alianza UC-Mexico, to José Antonio Meade,
former Mexican Presidential candidate, Senator
Claudia Ruiz Massieu, former U.S.
Ambasador to the United States Anthony
Wayne, and many others, the two-day event also celebrated the work of former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico and Institute of the Americas Director Jeffrey Davidow and the accomplishments
of José Galicot,
one of our coalition’s board members.
There were several working groups assembled, including
trade, migration, security, education and climate change. There was a great
deal of detail in the conversations, remarks and summaries I heard, but the
following were the most interesting to me:
Ambassador Tony Wayne: USMCA is not sufficient to address
the U.S.-Mexico relationship. The High Level Economic Dialogue, the High Level
Security Dialogue, and regional mechanisms should be working to their fullest
extent. How the border works together has nothing to do with USMCA.
Beatriz Leycegui, former
Undersecretary for International Trade, Mexican Secretariat of the Economy: We need an integration agreement
between the U.S. and Mexico if we are to implement sustainable job-creating
trade. There are no sound democratic policies to make us more competitive as a
region. We must have a common energy policy, a common vision to transition to
renewables, clear rules of origin in the automotive sector and a common
understanding of labor issues.
require an umbrella mechanism to evaluate
and coordinate USMCA progress. No one is evaluating its progress as of today.
should add security, migration, education and climate change in the High Level Economic and High Level Security Dialogue mechanisms
and the North American Leaders Summit.
must evolve from traditional diplomacy to public
diplomacy, with multiple stakeholders and subnational, municipal, and
must revive local institutions in border areas. Crisis management is day-to-day
at the border.
border must be seen as an innovation space.
net zero emission movement is becoming increasingly crucial for trade and
supply chains. This is where subnational state, regional and local stakeholders
have a huge role to play.
Energy sustainability should be central in the U.S.-Mexico
relationship. North America is the only region in the world with energy
The One Border Alliance (OBA) is looking forward to supporting the State
of Baja California business councils in the deployment of their 5-Year Business
Development Policy. The policy paper will need to translate into concrete
actions in a matter of months, and this is where the OBA could have an
important role to play now that border crossings figure prominently in the
Tijuana EDC President Carlos Jaramillo is a key person in the deployment
and someone who truly believes that unleashing the power of the border starts
at our land ports. Other important organizations involved this are the local
development councils and economic councils of Mexicali, Tecate and Ensenada.
Speaking of Carlos Jaramillo, on June 15th, several leading
cross-border and business organizations got together to sign a Memorandum of
Understanding to promote the binational region as the main destination for
foreign investment; strengthen the binational region as a hub for innovation;
support shared communication and collective events; and resolve investment
restrictions and advance public policies that boost our global
The Smart Border Coalition was a signee, as were the San Diego Regional
Chamber of Commerce, the Tijuana EDC, the Tijuana Development Council, the Tijuana
Tourism Chamber, the Tijuana Business Council, the San Diego Regional EDC, the South
County EDC, and the San Diego Tourism Authority.
I want to welcome San Diego State University as the
newest Smart Border Coalition member. The university’s membership
in our coalition will introduce the perspective of a trail-blazing cross-border
education and burgeoning research institution that is sensitive to our region’s
students, our water and our energy, as well as our supply chains and border
security. The school’s 2020 strategic plan "We Rise We Defy: Transcending
Borders, Transforming Lives" is a testament to its
belief in the power and promise of the border region.
The Innovation District the university is getting
ready to open in Mission Valley will truly expand the CaliBaja region’s problem
solving capabilities. SDSU’s recent announcement of a Science,
Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) facility at the Brawley campus
comes at an opportune moment when the lithium revolution is just beginning.
The Border Trade
The current President, Britton Mullen, has been a steadfast leader for the last 4 years,
conveying helpful information in the policy, trade and legislative arenas. Our
new chair is Lance Jungmeyer, Executive
Director of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas
The group also coordinated the 8th Annual “Building a Competitive U.S.-Mexico Border
Conference” with the Mexico
Institute at the Wilson Center (
Here are some highlights:
Texas Governor Abbott’s unilateral decision to slow down trade in April
based on Mexico supposedly not doing its part to inspect cargo coming in to
Texas, New Mexico wants to be the
new trade darling. This was evident in New
Mexico Senator Ben Lujan’s (R-NM) remarks to open the conference. He
underlined his state’s investment in and high hopes for the Santa Teresa/San Jerónimo border with Chihuahua.
CILA and IBWC Directors, Adriana Reséndez and María Elena Giner, sounded the alarm about drought in
the Colorado River and the Rio Grande, as well as the fact that
80% of water sanitation systems in Mexico have infrastructure deficits. They
both agreed that water reuse is an enormous opportunity that must not be
Governor Maru Campos of Chihuahua spoke about the New Mexico-Texas-Chihuahua Binational Infrastructure Task Force, a
group of public and private stakeholders looking to improve border crossings
and border community collaboration. Campos also touted the new Anapra bypass
that will connect Ciudad Juárez with San Jerónimo on the border with New Mexico.
Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), made some taped remarks on her
initiatives to fix border management and immigration systems. She spoke about
her role in getting $300 million for border security technology and funding for
a regional migrant processing center.
Katherine Dueholm of the State Department addressed President Biden’s Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act budget and the $2 billion
it has earmarked for border infrastructure, stating that it is a
once-in-a-generation opportunity. The
is in the details, however. Priorities for the $2 billion have not been
established yet but are forthcoming.
Ambassador Esteban Moctezuma emphasized the need for Mexico and
the United States to work together for a shared future, and the opportunity to
better integrate our border. He referred to the San Diego-Tijuana region as a “cross-border
trade and innovation hub” that could be an example to other border city pairs,
and underlined the importance of the 21st
Century Border Management Initiative, stating that it had helped spawn some
wonderful projects such as CBX and Unified Cargo Processing where
officials from Customs and Border
Protection and SAT (Mexico’s tax
authority) process cargo together, avoiding separate processing areas in each
Ambassador Ken Salazar spoke about the need to elevate the
understanding of the U.S.-Mexico relationship. He added that the last 5 years
had been characterized by poor dialogue between the U.S. and Mexico but that as
of last year and 2022, the relationship had been put “on steroids”. He said that our countries were aligned, “more
than ever” and that there were 4 important areas of work: economic development
(particularly in the energy sector), security, migration (unprecedented flows
of people to border) and the Bicentennial celebration of U.S.-Mexico relations.
talked about our countries’ need to make a pledge for electric vehicles to
represent 50% of all car sales by 2030; the promise of the Tehuantepec Isthmus as a trade corridor with the Southern U.S.
states; and a new vision of the border as a land of opportunity.
I do not see the relationship as rosy as the Ambassadors described it, I salute
the noticeable efforts to improve the relationship over the last 10 months. I
think that Ambassador Salazar has been the key player in this evolution.
I want to congratulate SANDAG’s Zach Hernandez, Associate Regional Planner, for conveying
the latest yearly border crossing stats. SANDAG has done a phenomenal job of
communicating this information in a practical and easy to use format. We have
now been given the opportunity to review stats on a monthly basis using a
California-Baja California Border Crossing and Trade Data Story Map:
Our next online Stakeholders
Working Committee meeting will convene on July 7th from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
in Tijuana. There are in-person and a virtual options. For the in-person
option, we will see you at Business Hub, 9th floor. The address is Blvd. Gustavo Salinas
#10485, 9th Floor, Colonia Aviación, 22014 TIJUANA. You can
If you cannot attend but can be with us virtually, please register here:
After registering, you will
receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
Gustavo De La Fuente
/ (619) 814-1386