November 8, 2021
Border restrictions have become far more manageable. At last so-called non-essential travelers with the appropriate travel documents can once again cross into the U.S., needing only to hold proof of vaccination. Looking forward, in January 2022 anyone crossing the border for either essential or non-essential travel and who is not a U.S. citizen or a green card holder will have to be vaccinated in order to travel northbound.
There’s no question that lines and waits will be long at first. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has been quite frank about this, but I trust CBP will sort it out soon. This is an unprecedented transition, so your patience and understanding are required. CBP asks travelers not to cross during peak times, mainly 4:00AM to 9:00AM on weekdays and from 2:00PM until midnight on weekends.
CBP asks everyone needing an I-94 tourist permit if traveling over 25 miles from the San Diego border to obtain it online, either by downloading the CBP One app or by going to . CBP will NOT process I-94 forms for pedestrians at the ports of entry, so you must get your online I-94 permit up to a maximum of 7 days before you travel.
Already there has been a sea change in air travel, though people from Mexico could already travel freely by air to the U.S. Delta said that since the reopening was announced six weeks ago, it has seen a 450% increase in international point-of-sale bookings. United Airlines is expecting 50% more total international inbound passengers today, November 8.
Our coalition has been cooperating with CBP to notify organizations and governments in Baja California of the November 8th changes. Sally Carrillo, CBP
Assistant Port Director, and her team have been tireless in planning for the changes.
It is important to note that schedules at certain ports will change. Tecate’s new hours will be 6:00AM to 10:00PM as of yesterday, adding eight hours to the schedule. Calexico East’s new times will be 6:00AM to 10:00PM. Calexico West, Otay Mesa, and San Ysidro schedules will remain the same.
Baja State Governor Marina del Pilar Avila took the oath of office in Mexicali on October 31st. Many welcomed this as a breath of fresh air for a state where we had observed so much animosity between the previous governor and the business class, whether local businesspeople or Fortune 1000 manufacturing facility directors.
The new governor was thankful to President López Obrador, one of her mentors, and women leaders such as Mexico City Governor Claudia Scheinbaum, present at the event. The president sent Economy Secretary Tatiana Clouthier to represent himself. Governor Avila spoke about reconciling with the business class as well as managing the many challenges the state has in terms of water vulnerability, energy shortages, and others, but pledging to do it with the “heart first” (“con el corazón por delante”).
I was fortunate enough to attend a small dinner with Secretary Clouthier that evening at Mexicali’s best Chinese restaurant, Imperial Palace on Madero
Street. As a typical “Culichi” (from Culiacán, Sinaloa), she is direct and to the point. We discussed border issues such as the illegal imports of used vehicles and tires into Mexico, a problem for many decades.
The San Diego Union-Tribune published an op-ed co-authored by Carlos Jaramillo, president of the Tijuana Economic Development Council, and me on strategically strengthening the CaliBaja region now that the border has reopened. Please see . Our op-ed was part of a series of opinion pieces about what it means to reopen. The writers, Alan Bersin, Melissa Floca, and Congressman Juan Vargas, among others, are featured in
the Sunday, November 7 edition of the paper and may also be found in the online edition.
The Tijuana business class should build on the Union-Tribune’s coverage of this vital topic. Business leaders could craft a communications strategy with the newspaper’s editorial board with articles published at least quarterly . This way, U.S. readers will have access to fresh and so far unrecognized perspectives on the second-largest city on the west coast of North American after Los Angeles.
Port of Ensenada opportunities continue to appear, but much has to happen before the port is ready to take on the huge amounts of undelivered cargo contained in vessels waiting off Long Beach and Los Angeles ports. The latter two ports handle 21 to 22 million Twenty-Foot Economic Units (TEUs) per year, while Ensenada, after its current expansion, will be able to offer only one million TEUs. This would be less than 5% of what the California ports handle.
Isn’t it time to think of Ensenada as a much larger opportunity? Could southern California ports, including San Diego and National City, be interested in an investment arrangement with Mexican private capital, the current port operator, and the Mexican government to truly turn the corner on receiving Asian cargo? Now is as good a moment as ever to consider this.
I was delighted to hear that California State Senator Ben Hueso visited the Guadalupe Valley wine country south of Tijuana with fellow Senator Brian Jones, Assemblymember Robert Rivas, as well as Conrado Ayala and Jacqueline Reynoso of Cordoba Corporation ,
Lourdes Jimenez of Sempra and Peter Silva of Silva-Silva International. They heard about mobility and water treatment projects and also spoke at length with wine makers in the valley. Hueso is a true ambassador for California in Baja California. He understands Mexican culture very well and is a great friend of the state.
He and his group were also guests of Governor Avila on Wednesday in Tecate for a discussion about binational issues. This is a welcome start to the new state administration!
Our Stakeholders Working Committee meeting last Thursday brought several new faces to our forum. Ernesto Chavez, the newly minted Binational Affairs Director for the City of Tijuana, was all business as he presented the city’s binational objectives. The new municipal administration has taken the bull by the horns by addressing the El Chaparral migrant encampment problem head-on.
A simple yet significant decision was to create a census
for migrants. This effort to keep track of the individuals in the tent
community had the effect of driving away almost two-thirds of those who were
there for reasons that had nothing to do with migration and who were involved
in questionable practices and activities with migrants. Questionable activities
could be selling illegitimate immigration representation and goods and
services, trafficking in illicit drugs, and even trafficking in minors.
Director Chavez also highlighted the city’s continued involvement in relocating encampment members, offering them space in shelters. He spoke about eliminating the so-called “pedestrian medical lane” at San Ysidro, working with the California Department of Motor Vehicles and the City of San Diego to make traffic tickets in Tijuana show up on Americans’ driving records, establishing a police officer watch group to guide tourists on weekends, equipping Tijuana officers at the Otay Mesa and San Ysidro ports with motorcycles to support their activities on behalf of travelers.
Our Stakeholders also heard from Dr. Abraham Sánchez-Frehem, president of the Medical Health Cluster () The cluster is a non-profit that brings together medical professional associations and institutions, independent professionals and companies with common interests for the promotion and development of medical tourism and medical advancement in the State of Baja California.
He was highly critical of the way the City of Tijuana has managed the medical lane and proposed using the Citizen’s Committee on Medical Tourism to work with the city to run a reformed, tolled medical lane. Funds coming from this
lane should be given to entrepreneurs whose projects and business plans could improve port of entry and surrounding area issues. Funds should also be used to beautify areas surrounding the ports. Dr. Sánchez and his cluster are advocating 100% transparency in how funds are managed.
The Valle de Guadalupe wine industry’s woes continue, but the growers are starting to get some good news. This past weekend Governor Avila agreed to eliminate the 4.5% state tax on wine bottles sold in Baja California. It is widely known that water scarcity and salinity could devastate the state’s wine industry if drastic measures are not taken in the short term. There is also a great need to enforce land regulation laws in the valley. It is no secret that some elected officials have ignored zoning requirements, allowing commercial establishments incompatible with the wine industry to set up shop.
I sat down with Tim Schwartz, California Institute for Innovation and Development director , to discuss how we can develop a truly global 2022 Border Innovation Challenge, with multiple participants, whether students or entrepreneurs from North America.
I’ve always argued that we should be expansive in the way we talk about the border. Limiting competitions to a few universities and entrepreneurs from our region does a disservice to our urgent need to transition into a functional and aesthetically pleasing border.
Among his many activities at the head of the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, Rafael Fernandez de Castro has found time to advise the new Baja California state government on energy, water, security, migration, health, and infrastructure. Rafael’s relationships with the best of the best among many academic disciplines, journalists, researchers, and elected officials has given him a well-deserved reputation as one of our region’s greatest binational connectors.
“CaliBaja: Moving Forward Together” is the next iteration of the “CaliBaja Dialogues” that Rafael started last year that featured expert analyses and reports on migration, border crossings and infrastructure, health, food,
philanthropy, government policy, talent, medical tourism, water, and energy. This new step attempts to take the issues we discussed last year and put them into a more practical context, setting courses of action, asking ourselves, “what do we do now?”
I joined the “Silicon Valley to Silicon Wadi: California’s Economic Ties with Israel” conference featuring California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis. I was amazed to hear that the bilateral relationship for business goes back many decades and that it spans several areas: water management, climate-smart agriculture, cybersecurity, healthtech, and mobility. What’s more, Israel and California have created an institutional framework that includes binational industry, agriculture, science foundations, and clusters.
What is intensely motivating about events like this is that they incite us ask how much Baja California and California can do together, constructively. Kudos to Sean Randolph of the Bay Area Economic Council () for putting this together.
The International Community Foundation (ICF, ) is searching for a new CEO. As the board chair, I have seen the organization’s great work, particularly in education, health, environment, and migration along the entire Baja peninsula. Many people think of the foundation as an organization limited to moving money in the form of grants to non-profits in Mexico. Yes, it does this, but more importantly, ICF works on the ground, understanding needs, vetting organizations, helping in terms of capacity building, alliances, and consulting projects and monitoring the impact that philanthropic money is having on the communities served.
Our next online Stakeholders Working Committee meeting will convene on January 13, 2022 from 9:00AM to 11:00AM in San Diego. You will be receiving an invitation shortly.
Gustavo De La Fuente
/ (619) 814-1386