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It is an arduous task facing President Joe Biden and the many officials from an array of federal agencies whom he has entrusted with designing comprehensive, thoughtful and humane border policies that simultaneously address trade, security country and the current influx of asylum seekers and refugees. And the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Europe only make it more complex and urgent.
But the administration fails both to explain its policy initiatives and to implement them competently and consistently. One thing that should always be the basis of decision-making? An appreciation of how its decisions affect bi-national communities on the southern border that depend on synergy and cooperation. Their reality seems a world apart from Washington’s war of words on immigration since Donald Trump led the debate into the gutter in 2015 by declaring that Mexican immigrants are “in many cases criminals, traffickers of drugs, rapists”.
This backdrop is crucial to understanding the urgent calls to Customs and Border Protection and the federal government generally to limit delays at the San Ysidro land port of entry. Five months after the US border opened to non-essential travel north, long waits continue to be the norm, draining tens of thousands of workers from the region’s binational economy and its $250 billion annual GDP. of dollars. What is striking is comparing the long-term thinking displayed under the Republican and Democratic administrations from 2004 to 2015 – when $880 million was spent to add 62 northbound lanes to the port of entry and to improve existing routes and facilities – with short-term decisions. now in production. As of 2 p.m. Tuesday, only five of those lanes were open. So why build them?
Such examples prompted the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce to send a letter this week to CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus with suggestions on simple ways to improve border traffic. Among them: focus risk assessments on the 3% of cross-border workers who do not travel regularly, and not on the 97% who do; standardize procedures for checking vehicles sent for secondary inspection; and pre-check as many crossers as possible to make SENTRI/Global Entry programs more efficient. These ideas make sense.
Let’s see how long it will take to implement these – or other measures needed to minimize disruption on both sides of the border. At a meeting in Mexico City last month, US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard agreed that major improvements at the Otay Mesa East border crossing were “ a strategic priority” for both countries. Meanwhile, in Washington, moves to fix Tijuana’s broken sewer infrastructure are moving slowly due to bureaucratic wrangling that ignores the angst seen in San Diego after a decade of closed beaches.
Powerful people who urge patience are part of the problem if problems don’t get better. ICT Tac.