Opinion: When the border reopens, here’s how we can strengthen the CaliBaja region
Jaramillo is Chairman of the Tijuana Economic Development Council and CEO of Via Capital. He lives in Tijuana. From La Fuente is Executive Director of the San Diego-Tijuana Smart Border Coalition and Chairman of the Board of the International Community Foundation. He lives in San Diego.
We are both active in civic and professional affairs in Tijuana and San Diego and in the vibrant and hugely important binational region known as “CaliBaja”. CaliBaja encompasses the state of Baja California and Imperial and San Diego counties, and it is on the verge of returning to near full life. On Monday, one of the most crippling conditions ever inflicted on CaliBaja will end.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will allow “non-essential” travelers who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and who have the proper documentation to enter through land and sea ports of entry. As our communities regain full access to each other, we plan to push to fundamentally rethink and even reinvent the multiple systems and practices affecting cross-border relationships.
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Here are some of the issues that we will strive to advance on the CaliBaja agenda:
Long waiting times
Despite fewer border crossings due to the restrictions and the fact that most passers-by were authorized travelers, wait times surprisingly did not decrease as much as expected and were sometimes extremely long, mainly in the Ready and All- lanes. Traffic. Long waits result in huge wasted time and money as well as increased environmental damage. Factors such as migrant camps near crossing points and attempts by migrants to cross illegally near officer counters complicate the work of CBP. More drug seizures and agents infected with the virus are shaping CBP’s decision-making. One factor, however, has a major impact on our wait times: the level of staff at U.S. ports of entry to process travelers. He hasn’t always followed the ebb and flow of travelers.
San Diego’s economy is affected when authorized travelers living in Tijuana are prevented from getting to work on time in San Diego. San Diego’s commerce and tourism also suffer when tourists realize that crossing the border can take hours. And the waits remain long for the 3,500 to 4,000 trucks that cross California daily in our region.
Could CBP improve the ferry experience with a comprehensive human resource management and training effort to standardize improved processing procedures and to put in place enough agents to keep the required number of stalls open?
Better neighborhood support from Mexico
During the pandemic, Mexico has generally failed to restrict non-essential travel. This prompted US-based tourists to visit Baja California, putting pressure on CBP when those travelers returned. The Mexican immigration authority has also avoided difficult decisions regarding the resettlement of migrants. Migrant groups located right next to the border are creating additional demands for CBP, forcing it to reallocate resources away from the tasks of processing legitimate travelers.
Considerable impacts of public health risks
Pre-pandemic public health conditions have rarely, if ever, manifested themselves among standard concerns related to border crossing. Now they should be a constant concern. The region’s responses to poorly understood phenomena such as cross-border infections have been patchy at best. Washington cited public health concerns for the repeated renewal of restrictions, but offered no explanation for its reasoning or plan.
How will the risk be assessed if infected travelers can arrive in any lane at any time? Would a new lane system be useful or a new way to screen travelers, such as pre-arrival screening? Local binational organizations and private companies could play an important role here in frank and constructive options discussions with CBP.
Strategic restructuring of the cross-border ecosystem
The broader issues on CaliBaja’s agenda should be rethought. Disrupted supply chains have sparked interest in “sourcing essential materials, goods and services from countries that share our democratic values and our commitment to an open, transparent and evidence-based international economic and trade regime. rules ”, to use the language of the Brookings Institution. With “nearshoring”, for example, business operations would move from Vietnam to Mexico. To capitalize on these trends, CaliBaja must participate in a supranational exercise to map and prioritize industrial sectors for North America to give each region its role. Candidates for CaliBaja must be from the aerospace, electric vehicle, information technology, biotechnology and medical device industries.
Mexican cities like Tijuana and Mexicali must seize opportunities in design, robotics, research and development, applied electronics and process virtualization. It needs to be done carefully, integrating into the California economy and harnessing local and regional talent. Baja California also needs to develop sustainable value-creating industries such as film, games, animation, fashion, biotechnology and medical technology. This is already happening haphazardly, but requires governments to work with private companies to make solid progress.
CaliBaja must harness the graduate talents of our great universities by aligning the workforce between institutions on both sides of the border and many manufacturing companies in Tijuana and Mexicali. These same companies must be ready to create an effective and truly binational entrepreneurial ecosystem so that our region can launch a binational venture capital industry.
Biotech and big data startups should be exposed to the many talented programmers and IT professionals at universities in Baja California. San Diego startups requiring programmers do not have a stable and reliable worker pipeline in Baja California and have to rely on faraway countries for their needs.