Category Archives: US-Mexican Border

March 14 Bikini Contest

AKA, Why I missed my Wednesday evening flight.




TIJUANA, Mexico — Authorities kept demonstrators blocks away from President Donald Trump’s first official visit to California Tuesday to see prototypes for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. That didn’t stop his critics from crossing into Mexico to shout their opposition from within the president’s earshot.

About 50 protesters on the Mexican side held up signs, climbed on rooftops and shouted slogans as Trump viewed eight prototypes for his proposed wall along the southern border.

While pro-Trump demonstrators gathered in San Diego, the theme in the dirt-road colonia Las Torres was entirely pro-immigrant.

As Trump toured the prototypes around 12:30 p.m PT (3:30 p.m. ET), protesters on the Tijuana side chanted, “No queremos muros” — we don’t want walls.

The San Diego-based nonprofit Border Angels, which distributes water and aid to migrants in the desert, sent a handful of demonstrators to protest Trump’s visit.

“Less people are coming here, but more people are dying,” Border Angels founder, Enrique Morones, said.

Morones’ group argues that Trump’s border wall would certainly lead to increased deaths as people fleeing violence in Central America and poverty in parts of Mexico would resort to more extreme measures to get north.

“These walls, if they are built, will push people toward more extreme measures,” said Border Angels volunteer Manuel Galaviz, 34, who carried small wooden crosses in the name of dead border crossers. He said, for example, suffocating tunnels might prevail if Trump’s wall is built.

“It will be more dangerous,” Galaviz said.

Image: Mexican protests along the border as US President Trump visits border wall prototypes

Demonstrators in Tijuana, Mexico, protest Trump’s visit to see border wall prototypes the U.S. side of the border near San Diego, California, on Tuesday. Alejandro Zepeda / EPA

A few members of the group Deported Veterans demonstrated on the Mexican side, too. The organization represents U.S. combat veterans who have been deported, often as a result of arrest records, prosecutions or jail time. Founder Hector Barajas said that, in reaction to Trump’s hard-line immigration policies, the group is working on expanding to Juarez, Mexico, and to the Dominican Republic. The message he said he’d like Trump to hear is, “We need to bring our veterans home,” Barajas said Tuesday.

“We are against the separation of families,” he said. “And we are against building a wall.”

Forty-four-year-old Juan Carlos Sanchez was one of more than a dozen protesters in neon green vests representing the groups Angeles Sin Fronteras (Angels Without Borders) and Alianza Migrantes Tijuana (Tijuana Migrant Alliance). They held signs that stated, “No Al Muro” — no to the wall.

A former U.S. resident who was deported 11 years ago, Sanchez said he plans to stay in Tijuana as long as Trump is in charge. “I decided not to go back,” he says. “I don’t think it’s safe for immigrants in the U.S.”

Image: Juan Carlos Sanchez

Juan Carlos Sanchez, 44, says he was deported from the U.S. to Mexico and has no plans on returning as long as Trump is president. Dennis Romero

Sanchez lamented what he described as a lost sense of bi-national friendship that prevailed before the 2016 presidential election. A good portion of this city of 1.6 million was built on cross-border commerce, and the results are everywhere, from the city’s giant Costco to the massive, high-tech television and auto-part factories that line the border.

The road east of Tijuana takes visitors by a gleaming new Ford/Lincoln dealership, and, in the nightlife area known as Zona Norte, there’s an outpost of the American Deja Vu gentlemen’s clubs.

Putting a wall between the United States and so much of its products, Sanchez says, just isn’t good business. “If you want to be neighbors,” he says, “we’re supposed to love one another.”

Tijuana Pollution Closes San Diego Beaches


Beaches as far north as the Hotel del Coronado have been closed following weekend showers that flushed sewage-polluted water through the Tijuana River and into the Pacific Ocean.

The closures, which started Sunday, also include the shorelines of Border Field State Park, Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge, Imperial Beach and Silver Strand.

Such impacts have increasingly infuriated South Bay residents in recent years as Tijuana’s sewage infrastructure continues to buckle under the weight of the city’s housing boom.

Beaches as far north as the Hotel del Coronado have been closed following weekend showers that flushed sewage-polluted water through the Tijuana River and into the Pacific Ocean.

The closures, which started Sunday, also include the shorelines of Border Field State Park, Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge, Imperial Beach and Silver Strand.

Such impacts have increasingly infuriated South Bay residents in recent years as Tijuana’s sewage infrastructure continues to buckle under the weight of the city’s housing boom.

In addition to pathogens found in sewage — including bacteria such as E. coli, vibrio and salmonella — there are several viruses and intestinal parasites that can cause everything from diarrhea to meningitis to respiratory infections.

Under dry conditions, pumps on the Tijuana River divert flows of sewage-tainted water from emptying into the river valley. However, according to federal authorities, the system’s capacity is overwhelmed by nearly any rain event and requires shutting down to prevent damage.

This month, the cities of Imperial Beach and Chula Vista, as well as the Port of San Diego filed a Clean Water Act lawsuit against the federal government in an attempt to force the funding of projects to divert and or treat the polluted water.

The lawsuit alleges that the U.S. side of the International Boundary and Water Commission, or IBWC, hasn’t taken sufficient steps to control sewage, industrial waste, pesticides and massive amounts of trash that regularly flow through the Tijuana River and into the Pacific Ocean.

According to the complaint, sections of the Imperial Beach shoreline were closed for more than 160 days in both 2017 and 2016, as well as for more than 200 days in 2015 as the result of such contamination.

IBWC authorities have countered that they’re actively pursuing binational solutions to limit the water pollution. The agency oversees water treaties with Mexico and facilitates infrastructure spending along the border.

Before the two countries spent hundreds of millions of dollars to construct treatment plants on both sides of the border two decades ago, up to 10 million gallons of raw sewage a day flowed down the Tijuana River and into San Diego County.

Trump Visits San Diego Tuesday

After weeks of testing, the eight prototypes for President Trump’s “big, beautiful” wall will share center stage on Tuesday with Trump during his first presidential visit to California.

As Trump inspects the prototypes and poses for photos along the border east of San Diego, he’ll be just yards away from a Tijuana slum where people have formulated their own ideas about them.

The 30-foot structures — built with varying mixes of concrete and steel tubes — draw residents, tourists and even Tijuana police officers who pose for selfies in the Rancho Escondido neighborhood. They climb atop piles of rubber tires or tiptoe on dirt mounds for a peek over the 7-foot border fence into the testing site.

The towering wall segments will offer Trump a powerful platform as he pushes to secure $25 billion for border security.

They link power plants in Tijuana and San Diego. Along with a nearby underground natural gas pipeline, they provide energy for millions of people in both countries. To residents like Contreras, those are the kind of ties between the U.S. and Mexico that transcend any wall.

“We need each other no matter what happens,” he said.

Trump is not expected to announce which of the prototypes will be used, but he may express a preference.

Whichever wall is selected, it will not likely be erected in California, where barriers already line most of the border and where replacements, planned for this year, have different designs. The wall, according to the most recent proposed budget of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, is slated for the Texas border with Mexico.

Federal authorities chose to build the prototypes in San Diego in part because of the region’s easy access for teams of agents that have been testing each of the walls.

They have been assaulting the prototypes, using jackhammers, blow torches, ropes and other tools that test the walls’ capacity to repel intruders.

From Rancho Escondido, the efforts seem misspent.

Border barriers have been part of the scenery here for years. There are two fences, bolstered by cameras and lighting that make the area among the most heavily fortified along the border.

Although Trump often portrays the border as chaotic and porous, the San Diego-Tijuana border was largely tamed long ago — and has become a model for effective border enforcement.

The double fencing lines most of the 14-mile border from the Pacific Ocean to Otay Mountain. Apprehensions of illegal crossers have dropped for years, and most smuggling organizations have moved to other, more remote areas.

Tijuana is among Mexico’s most dangerous cities, but there is relatively little spillover violence. San Diego is among this country’s safest biggest cities, with 34 homicides last year. Tijuana had 1,780.

The region does remain vulnerable to drug smuggling, but most of the illicit cargo is funneled through the region’s two ports of entry, inside hidden compartments of vehicles.

A wall won’t do anything to stop that, said Marco Zamora, a U.S. citizen who has lived in Rancho Escondido for 20 years. Zamora crosses the border for work every day and said customs inspectors seem demoralized and overworked.

“They’re not checking much these days,” he said. “They don’t seem very energized.”

From Zamora’s two-story house, the border is a two-block stretch of deeply rutted dirt roads lined with shanties and junkyards. Roosters wake the neighborhood, and ice cream vendors push their carts around garbage piles and stolen cars stripped clean of doors and seats.

But Trump’s vision, they say, is excessive, not so much an enforcement tool as a symbol of hostility toward Mexico.

Jesus Martinez, a U.S. citizen from Bakersfield who was visiting the area last week to scout warehouse locations for his furniture business, said the size of the wall prototypes were overwhelming.

He voted for Trump, but said he disagreed on the necessity of the wall. “He’s not very diplomatic,” Martinez said after studying the barriers through a hole in the existing border fence.

Some residents, long familiar with the tactics of smugglers, have been doing their own armchair analyses of the wall prototypes. The steel could be cut through with blow torches within 15 minutes, some said. Though a solid concrete wall would present more challenges, it would allow smugglers to operate without being seen by border agents.

And then there are always tunnels. A warehouse district just a few miles west is the busiest tunneling area on the border.

“Chapo is the one who showed us how to get across, just go under,” said Contreras, referring to Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the drug cartel crime boss, currently in custody in the U.S., who is said to have built numerous drug tunnels.

Barriers weren’t the only infrastructure built along this stretch of the frontier. Over the years, utility companies linked up power plants in Tijuana and San Diego, running electrical wires slung from giant towers and a natural gas pipeline.

In a debate so dominated by symbols, to many of Rancho Escondido’s residents the image of two countries working to heat and light homes will always be the more potent one.

“You can build a wall to the heavens,” said Gilberto Alvarez, 42, “but Mexico and the U.S. will always be joined together.”

CBP Takes Away Mom


Baja Prominent in Most Dangerous Cities in the World

In 2017, Latin America retained the ignominious distinction of having the most cities on Mexico’s Citizens’ Council for Public Security’s annual ranking of the world’s most violent cities.

Of the 50 cities on the list, 42 are in Latin America, including 17 in Brazil, 12 in Mexico, and five in Venezuela. Colombia had three, Honduras had two, and El Salvador, Guatemala, and Jamaica all had one.

The region’s violence is in large part driven by drug trafficking and organized crime— in Mexico, fragmentation of criminal groups has stoked more bloodshed in recent months. Insecurity is also exacerbated by political instabilitypoverty, and poor economic conditions. Corruption, abuses by officials, and impunity also facilitate crime.

The ranking contains cities with populations of more than 300,000 and does not count deaths in combat zones or cities with unavailable data, so some dangerous cities don’t appear on the list

The Council also estimates homicide rates for some cities based on incomplete data.

In Venezuela, for example, the government has not consistently released homicide data (though it did for 2016), and in the past the Council has estimated based on entries at the Bello Monte morgue, which draws from an area larger than Caracas and doesn’t only include homicides. The Council was also unable to gather 2017 full-year data for the city, leading it to calculate last year’s tally based on previous estimates. Two other cities in Venezuela were excluded from this year’s ranking because there was no reliable homicide data for them.

Here’s the top 50:

View As: One Page Slides
50. Cucuta, Colombia, had 34.78 homicides per 100,000 residents.
49. Vitoria, Brazil, had 36.07 homicides per 100,000 residents.
48. Teresina, Brazil, had 37.05 homicides per 100,000 residents.
47. Campina Grande, Brazil, had 37.29 homicides per 100,000 residents.
46. Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa, had 37.53 homicides per 100,000 residents.
45. Campos dos Goytacazes, Brazil, had 37.53 homicides per 100,000 residents.
44. Durban, South Africa, had 38.12 homicides per 100,000 residents.
43. Mazatlan, Mexico, had 39.32 homicides per 100,000 residents.
43. Mazatlan, Mexico, had 39.32 homicides per 100,000 residents.
The hands of a dead man on a sidewalk in Mazatlan, Sinaloa state, October 22, 2011. A man was shot dead outside his home by two gunmen, according to local media.

In 2017, Mazatlan had a population of 488,281 people and 192 homicides.

42. Detroit had 39.69 homicides per 100,000 residents.

41. New Orleans had 40.10 homicides per 100,000 residents.

40. Macapa, Brazil, had 40.24 homicides per 100,000 residents.

39. Porto Alegre, Brazil, had 40.96 homicides per 100,000 residents.
38. Reynosa, Mexico, had 41.95 homicides per 100,000 residents.
38. Reynosa, Mexico, had 41.95 homicides per 100,000 residents.
Mexican federal police patrol the border city of Reynosa, Mexico, January 10, 2008.
 AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills

In 2017, Reynosa had a population of 701,525 people and 294 homicides.

37. Palmira, Colombia, had 46.65 homicides per 100,000 residents.

36. Tepic, Mexico, had 47.09 homicides per 100,000 residents.

36. Tepic, Mexico, had 47.09 homicides per 100,000 residents.
A bullet-ridden SUV after a gun battle in which a man identified as head of the Beltran Leyva drug cartel and several accomplices were killed by Mexican marines, in Tepic, Nayarit, Mexico, February 10, 2017.
 (AP Photo/Chris Arias)

In 2017, Tepic had a population of 503,330 people and 237 homicides.

35. Distrito Central, Honduras, had 48 homicides per 100,000 residents.

34. Manaus, Brazil, had 48.07 homicides per 100,000 residents.

33. Barquisimeto, Venezuela, had 48.23 homicides per 100,000 residents.
32. San Juan, Puerto Rico, had 48.70 homicides per 100,000 residents.
31. Ciudad Obregón, Mexico, had 48.96 homicides per 100,000 residents.
31. Ciudad Obregón, Mexico, had 48.96 homicides per 100,000 residents.
Patrons eat at a taco stand next to the body of a man on the pavement, in Ciudad Obregon, August 10, 2010. According to local media, the man died after a heart attack.

In 2017, Ciudad Obregon had a population of 339,000 people and 166 homicides.

30. João Pessoa, Brazil, had 49.17 homicides per 100,000 residents.

29. Chihuahua, Mexico, had 49.48 homicides per 100,000 residents.

29. Chihuahua, Mexico, had 49.48 homicides per 100,000 residents.
Demonstrators wearing paper masks with the name of one of the missing 43 Ayotzinapa trainee teachers march in Chihuahua, November 15, 2014.
 REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

In 2017, Chihuahua had a population of 929,884 people and 460 homicides.

28. Cali, Colombia, had 49.59 homicides per 100,000 residents.

27. Valencia, Venezuela, had 49.74 homicides per 100,000 residents.

26. San Pedro Sula, Honduras, had 51.18 homicides per 100,000 residents.

25. Salvador, Brazil, had 51.58 homicides per 100,000 residents.
24. Guatemala City, Guatemala, had 53.49 homicides per 100,000 residents.

23. Maturin, Venezuela, had 54.43 homicides per 100,000 residents.

22. Recife, Brazil, had 54.96 homicides per 100,000 residents.

21. Baltimore had 55.48 homicides per 100,000 residents.
20. Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, had 56.16 homicides per 100,000.
20. Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, had 56.16 homicides per 100,000.
Forensic technicians at a crime scene where unknown assailants left the body of a man wrapped in blankets on the side of a road on the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, November 22, 2017.
 REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

In 2017, Ciudad Juarez had a population of 1,448,859 people and 814 homicides.

19. Feira de Santana, Brazil, had 58.81 homicides per 100,000 residents.

18. Aracaju, Brazil, had 58.88 homicides per 100,000 residents.

17. San Salvador, El Salvador, had 59.06 homicides per 100,000 residents.

16. Kingston, Jamaica, had 59.71 homicides per 100,000 residents.
15. Cape Town, South Africa, had 62.25 homicides per 100,000 residents.
14. Maceio, Brazil, had 63.94 homicides per 100,000 residents.

13. St. Louis had 65.83 homicides per 100,000 residents.

12. Culiacan, Mexico, had 70.10 homicides per 100,000 residents.
12. Culiacan, Mexico, had 70.10 homicides per 100,000 residents.
A Mexican marine looks at the body of a gunman next to a vehicle after a gun fight in Culiacan, Mexico, February 7, 2017.
(AP Photo/Rashide Frias)

In 2017, Culiacan had a population of 957,613 people and 671 homicides.

11. Vitoria da Conquista, Brazil, had 70.26 homicides per 100,000 residents.

10. Belem, Brazil, had 71.38 homicides per 100,000 residents.

 9. Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela, had 80.28 homicides per 100,000 residents.
8. Ciudad Victoria, Mexico, had 83.32 homicides per 100,000 residents.
8. Ciudad Victoria, Mexico, had 83.32 homicides per 100,000 residents.
A soldier standing guard at the site of a car-bomb attack outside the broadcaster Televisa in Ciudad Victoria, Mexico.

In 2017, Ciudad Victoria had a population of 361,078 people and 301 homicides.

7. Fortaleza, Brazil, had 83.48 homicides per 100,000 residents.

6. La Paz, Mexico, had 84.79 homicides per 100,000 residents.

6. La Paz, Mexico, had 84.79 homicides per 100,000 residents.
La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur state in northwest Mexico, February 8, 2017.
 Cvmontuy/Wikimedia Commons

In 2017, La Paz had a population of 305,455 people and 259 homicides.

5. Tijuana, Mexico, had 100.77 homicides per 100,000 residents.

5. Tijuana, Mexico, had 100.77 homicides per 100,000 residents.
Policemen stand guard as forensic investigators work on the exhumation of a mass grave believed to have been used to bury unidentified victims of drug violence, in Tijuana, Mexico, August 16, 2017.
 REUTERS/Jorge Duenes

In 2017, Tijuana had a population of 1,882,492 people and 1,897 homicides.

4. Natal, Brazil, had 102.56 homicides per 100,000 residents.

3. Acapulco, Mexico, had 106.63 homicides per 100,000 residents.

3. Acapulco, Mexico, had 106.63 homicides per 100,000 residents.
A police officer inspects a body as another body is carried away after they were shot in central Acapulco, Mexico, August 29, 2017.
 AP Photo/Bernandino Hernandez

In 2017, Acapulco had a population of 853,646 people and 910 homicides.

2. Caracas, Venezuela, had 111.19 homicides per 100,000 residents.

1. Los Cabos, Mexico, had 111.33 homicides per 100,000 residents.

1. Los Cabos, Mexico, had 111.33 homicides per 100,000 residents.
Soldiers walk near tourists on the beach in Los Cabos, June 16, 2012. G20 leaders gathered for two days of meetings in the Pacific resort.
 REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas

In 2017, Los Cabos had a population of 328,245 people and 365 homicides.

Border Pollution Affects CPB Agents

  • Customs and Border Protection is soliciting ideas for addressing some of the problems its agents face from contaminated water flowing across the international border.
  • The agency is seeking solutions from private industry and could award contracts to projects it likes.
  • The move was spurred by health complaints, including rashes and respiratory problems, from Border Patrol agents who work in the Tijuana River Valley where the polluted water flows.

With health complaints continuing from Border Patrol agents who work the polluted areas of the Tijuana River Valley, the federal Customs and Border Protection agency is quietly trying to solve some of the problems of toxic sewage flows from Mexico — on its own.

The agency posted a notice on a federal contracting website last week seeking ideas from private industry on how to get a handle on cross-border sewage and hazardous materials that flow through the area, and which Border Patrol agents are routinely exposed to.

The posting, formally known as a Request for Information, is the first step in what could become a full-blown contract award by the agency. The notice, titled “CBP Wastewater Initiative,” marks a move into an area — engineering and environmental solutions — that the massive law enforcement agency does not normally delve into.

It also marks a new opening in the escalating battle to address the decades-long problem of sewage flows through the valley. On Friday a group of local governments, including Imperial Beach and the San Diego Unified Port District, announced a lawsuit against the federal government for failing to stop the repeated discharges of polluted water into the valley.

That litigation could take years to resolve. Meanwhile CBP is taking steps to at least alleviate — not necessarily solve — the problems faced by its agents.

The move is likely a response to increasing alarm sounded by the union for Border Patrol agents about health problems that Border Patrol agents assigned to Imperial Beach have experienced. Chris Harris, a union representative, said that some 83 agents have reported headaches, rashes, infections and other problems from contacting the water and breathing in the dust in the valley.

Harris praised the agency for taking the lead. He said the union has met with Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan about the problem and worked to start finding solutions.

“We don’t have engineers and scientists coming out of the woodwork,” Harris said of CBP. “They are saying we can’t wait any more… The EPA has not been helpful, and neither has the state.

“Can you imagine if you had a city where sewage was running down the streets, and it was the Police Department that said we are going to solve it? Where’s the water department or the sewer department? That’s the situation we are in.”

CBP said in a statement the agency isn’t going out on its own and will still work with other entities to seek a solution.

“This effort is only addressing one part of this complicated issue. CBP continues to work closely with its inter-agency partners at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of State (DoS), the Department of Treasury, and the United States International Boundary and Water Commission to develop a whole-of-government approach to resolving this large-scale infrastructure issue, to include robust engagement with the Government of Mexico.”

The agency said the cost of its efforts cannot be projected until solutions surface through the Request for Information process.

While health concerns of agents were a factor, the statement also said that CBP was “spurred by the continued risks the trans-boundary wastewater and hazardous flows pose to its mission as a whole, which includes not only the health and life safety risks to its U.S. Border Patrol Agents, but also its mission support personnel and individuals it apprehends in performance of its mission.”

The notice said that agents have to routinely inspect a network of culverts that run under the border fencing and barriers that carry water to look for unauthorized immigrants and smugglers.

While the culverts should only be wet during and after a storm, they are often carrying water during dry periods — a result of the lack of sewage infrastructure in Tijuana and illegal dumping, authorities have said. Several of the canyons that cross the border empty into collectors that capture the dry-weather flows for eventual pumping to a sewage treatment plant on the U.S. side of the border.

“Known and unknown contaminants pose operational and health risks to Border Patrol agents operating in the area,” the notice reads.

The agency asks for a range of solutions, including automated equipment that would allow agents to no longer patrol the area on foot, as well as “engineering fixes to the canyon collector infrastructure to neutralize the risk of the hazardous material contained in the water or eliminate the water that pools in the collectors.”

The agency also wants ideas for a “suite of technology” that would allow agents to remotely monitor culvert grates and spillways, alerting “personnel of imminent risks so they can take precautionary measures to limit exposure.”

Ideas are due in mid-March. As a sign that the agency is seriously considering purchasing solutions there is an “industry day” already scheduled for San Diego in April. At those events government officials and contractors interested in a procurement discuss the goals of a project, possible scheduled and get feedback from industries about a proposal.

Tijuana Threshold of the Americas

Above YouTube shows the 2016 construction of the Puente Vehicular Centro Histórico-Puerta México(PVCHPM) San Ysidro 2018 Directions bridge discussed in yesterday’s post.  Below is the concept plan that includes the vehicular bridge and the arched pedestrian bridge.

The project covers a 3/4 mile route from the PedWest pedestrian entrance at the San Ysidro Port of Entry to the giant arch at the north end of Revolución Avenue (Los Angeles Times) 

Dec 26, 2017

Closed storefronts, broken sidewalks and dark staircases have welcomed for years, the pedestrians who are heading from the border to downtown Tijuana. Now the promoters of the city want to drastically change that disturbing first impression.

A $ 13 million project called “Threshold of the Americas”, provides for a renovated entrance, with plazas, new lighting, well-designed ramps and a wide bridge over the Tijuana river channel to connect the border with Avenida Revolución, the tourist district traditional of the city.

“We want to develop a place where tourists want to stay, entertain themselves, instead of a place where they just want to walk fast,” said Aaron Victorio, executive director of the Economic Development Council of Tijuana.

Just in front of San Ysidro, the project encompasses a 3/4 mile route from the PedWest pedestrian entrance at the San Ysidro Port of Entry to the giant arch at the north end of Avenida Revolución. The road crosses an area in transition, at the same time that it grows with activity and new constructions and struggles with an ugly image of urban decay, with empty shops, a homeless population and a persistent stench that rises from the Tijuana River channel.

The goal is to make walking in Tijuana a safer and more pleasant experience, both for tourists and for visitors to the city. The changes are part of a larger effort to revitalize the historic city center near the US border, an area that is slowly transforming with new living spaces, cultural venues, breweries, restaurants and cafes.

The opening of PedWest in 2016 underscored the need for a better pedestrian connection from the border to downtown Tijuana. US Customs and Border Protection figures UU they show an average of 12,000 people crossing north daily through Pedwest, about 60 percent of total foot traffic to the north, and an estimated number cross to the south.

“It should be better,” said David Bernal, a 22-year-old Tijuana resident who crosses the border at PedWest to and from work at the Northgate market in San Diego. “After dark, I do not pass by,” he said as he headed home at dusk.

Funding for the project so far comes from a variety of government sources, including the state government of Baja California and the municipal government of Tijuana. With approximately a quarter of the funds already in hand, the first phase is scheduled to move forward early next year and will be completed in September. This will involve the reconstruction of a pedestrian corridor lined with small shops known as Callejon Articulo 123, and includes putting the electrical wiring underground and offering incentives to the merchants to rebuild their facades.

“Everything that can help the center of Tijuana will be useful for future development,” said Genaro Valladolid, a real estate agent from Tijuana who has defended the developments of commercial use and housing in the area. “At this moment, when you cross this area it’s an unpleasant experience.”

The centerpiece of the project is in the second phase and involves the reconstruction of the United Nations pedestrian bridge that spans the Tijuana River, expanding it and building “cultural plazas” at each end. The structure includes giant steel tubes that support the bridge that will form a giant X, an allusion to the “x” of Mexico. The final phase includes a connection path to PedWest.

“This project will allow us to show that yes, we can improve, we can change and we can renew all the way from the entrance of Tijuana to other areas” of the city, said Gabriel Camarena, president of CDT.

While at this time the funds to complete the project are uncertain, the CDT is confident that they will be obtained, said Victorio, the executive director.

And although an entry redesigned the city center can not solve all the problems of the area, the Threshold project is an important first step, proponents say the project. “It’s part of the solution, although not complete the solution,” said Arturo Echanove, an architect of Tijuana who helped select the current design.

Threshold of the Americas is one of the five projects adopted by CDT of a long-term metropolitan strategic plan that lists 214 priority projects for the region that covers Tijuana, Tecate and Playas de Rosarito.

The need for such a project was mentioned for the first time in the plan in 2012, said Victorio. In 2014, the council collaborated with a publication on Mexican architecture, Arquine, asking for conceptual designs to redevelop the area. Approximately 400 proposals from around the world were sent, including Uruguay, France and China, and the winning design was presented by a team from the USA. UU

“It was a great concept, but it was not really feasible,” said Victorio, adding that the estimated cost of $ 70 million was too high. “We said, let’s do something that is feasible to our reality”

Earlier this year, a new invitation to receive proposals was issued, this time from eight local companies and in August a winning team was selected by a jury that included CDT; agencies of the government of Baja California, the city of Tijuana, the federal government and the main architectural and engineering groups of the city.

“The idea is to renovate the area, make it habitable, passable and safe,” said Sergio Celis, an engineer from Tijuana. who leads the 12-member interdisciplinary team that was selected. “It’s the entrance to Mexico, it must be the right one”.

For Elba Palos, the changes will not come too soon. His curio shop on the edge of the Tijuana Handicraft Market has seen few clients in recent years. “They do not come anymore,” he said. “It’s a real fight and we want more people to come.”

New Border Wall


One of President Donald Trump’s main campaign platforms was to build a border wall. Now at the beginning of his second year in office, Congress is locked in a stalemate over funding the wall and providing a pathway to citizenship for so-called “dreamers.”

Meanwhile, the Border Patrol last week touted a new 30-foot structure replacing a little over two miles of decades-old barriers in Calexico as part of “the border wall.” Media announced the development as the first installation of Trump’s wall.

Plans for the project began in 2009, according to Border Patrol agent Justin Castrejon, well before Trump as a candidate began calling for a border wall.

Congress has not passed any bills specifically funding Trump’s border wall.

Money for the Calexico project came in Trump’s first year in office with the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, according to a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection. That legislation gives CBP about $260.9 million for “procurement, construction, and improvements.”

The Calexico project contract will cost about $18 million, Castrejon said.

Agents generally used the term “fence” to refer to barriers that were in place prior to the Trump administration. With the announcement of this project, that seems to be changing.

“We are calling this a border wall,” Castrejon said. “It is not a new wall. It’s a replacement wall.”

The new barrier is made of bollards — posts placed close together so that people can’t get through but agents can see if anyone is on the other side. The posts are thicker and taller than the 15- to 20-foot bollards erected in the 2000s in other parts of the El Centro Sector.

The new project is replacing old Vietnam War-era landing mats that were put up in the 1990s.

Ken Walsh, professor of construction engineering at San Diego State University, said the difference between a fence and a wall is that fences can be seen through and have posts.

Walls, he said, are opaque and have a continuous base instead of posts. Height doesn’t make a difference in the terminology, he said.

That would mean the new structure going up in Calexico is a fence, and the landing mat barrier that it’s replacing is actually a wall.

On Thursday, the second day of construction, workers used a large Caterpillar machine to pull down a few pieces of old landing mat.

Mexican authorities patrolled in a shade of trees south of the border to keep anyone from trying to cross through the gap. One paused to record on his phone as workers plucked one of the large metal sheets out of the ground with construction equipment.

Workers hadn’t yet started putting up the new bollards. They lay in a stack nearby.

Pieces of the new structure will go up before more of the old material comes down, Castrejon said, to keep security risks to a minimum.

He said the barrier is not an “end all,” but a “force multiplier.”

It will run from the banks of the New River on the west side of downtown Calexico past Gran Plaza Outlets to a stretch of fields lined with crops, solar panels and, in some cases, just dirt.

The area has been problematic for agents, Castrejon said, both in terms of crossings and assaults on Border Patrol. Agents in El Centro apprehended about 18,500 people illegally crossing the border in fiscal 2017, according to data from CBP.

Known as one of the most polluted rivers in the nation, the New River causes particular trouble, Castrejon said, because smugglers often encourage unauthorized immigrants to use the green, smelly water to swim into the U.S.

Agents are instructed not to go into the water unless there’s a life-or-death emergency. They consider someone trying to splash them with the polluted water as an assault.

Agents hope the updated barrier will prevent people from trying to cross through the river. Castrejon was unable to give details about construction plans for the river itself.

The El Centro Sector of Border Patrol has several types of barriers that vary based on geography and how much action agents see in a particular area.

The western-most part of the sector begins in the mountains, where geography acts as the only deterrent to people crossing into the U.S. without authorization.

Where state Route 98 stretches from Interstate 8 through desert toward the city of Calexico, a low, airy fence lines the border. It doesn’t block people from crossing on foot, but it keeps cars from driving through low brush to the highway, where they can disappear into traffic.

Though “drive throughs,” as agents call them, were a big problem for the area in the past, the sector didn’t have any last year, Castrejon said, and he attributed that to the fencing.

“Infrastructure — it helps. It works,” he said.

The sector doesn’t need to spend resources on more elaborate barriers in that area, he said.

Agents have camera towers to watch for pedestrians in the desert, and they periodically drag old tires to smooth the soil so they can track footprints. Because it can take hours to hike from the border to the highway on foot, Castrejon said, agents have time to catch unauthorized immigrants before they get away.

Closer to Calexico, where the new project is located, agents have less time to catch border crossers before they make it to roads or residential areas. Agents rely on barriers that block pedestrians to help them with their work.

In the 90s, the landing mats were installed along the two-mile stretch leading west out of Calexico where the new structure is now going up.

After the opaque metal sheets were in place, the Calexico Arts Council commissioned a mural along part of the barrier, a friendship bracelet to affirm a close relationship between the two countries that the landing mats separated. A few of the painted sections will be kept in a local museum after they come down.

In the 2000s, a barrier made of bollards went up both in downtown Calexico and between the landing mats and the vehicle fence in the desert.

San Diego also has sections of barrier made of old landing mats. In places that kept agents busy with frequent crossings, the federal government built a second row of fencing.

Because much of the land near the border in Calexico is private property, Castrejon said, secondary fencing was not a viable solution to give agents there more support.

The Calexico construction is one of three projects at the center of a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s use of a waiver to comply with environmental laws to speed up border infrastructure work. The waiver was also used on the wall prototypes on Otay Mesa and a planned fencing replacement project in San Diego.

The judge’s decision could come any day, raising questions about what would happen if the Calexico project has to stop.

Castrejon said he couldn’t comment on pending litigation.

A fence isn’t inferior to a wall, said Walsh, the engineering professor. What matters is how well it serves its purpose of keeping people from crossing into the U.S. without authorization.

“By virtue of being taller, whether you call it a ‘fence’ or call it a ‘wall,’ it should still be more difficult to cross,” Walsh said.

Walsh also pointed to the American Society of Civil Engineers report on the condition of U.S. infrastructure. Last year, the country earned a D+ for the quality of its roads, bridges, fences and walls.

“Everything eventually needs to be replaced,” Walsh said.

Regardless of the word used to describe the new barrier, Castrejon is excited about the increased visibility the bollard fence will give to agents working in the area.

“This is historic times,” Castrejon said.

Tijuana Sewage Pollutes San Diego Beaches

Bajadock: “They are not sending their best.”


In the early 1960s, sewage being dumped by Tijuana was polluting the beaches and waters off Imperial Beach.

At the time, the remedy — of sorts — was to put chlorine in the wastewater before it was sent into the international outfall. Sometimes Mexican officials balked at spending tens of thousands of dollars to do that.

Dr. J. B. Askew, San Diego County’s health officer at the time, said he couldn’t stop people from flushing their toilets in Mexico, but he could declare a public health problem and keep San Diegans away from — or crossing — the border.

That threat got people’s attention.

Not wanting to lose their American customers, proprietors of bars, restaurants and other businesses along Avenida Revolución helped raised money to get the chlorine.

Brian Bilbray tells that story and suggests there should be a modern-day version aimed at getting Mexico to take stronger action to stop the sewage flows that continue to pollute the Tijuana River and the ocean beyond, regularly closing beaches in his town and sometimes up the Silver Strand to Coronado.

The former Imperial Beach mayor, county supervisor and congressman said shutting down border crossings, at least partially, whenever raw sewage is discharged from Tijuana would get people’s attention.

“I know that sounds radical,” he said, “but it wouldn’t be radical in any other application.”

He said if General Motors or Union Carbide released such pollution on a river, the ocean and nearby communities, “You’d have, environmentalists, everybody saying ‘shut their doors!’”

Perhaps. But those two corporations have staying power. So does Tijuana sewage. Cross-border pollution has plagued the region since at least the 1930s. There’s been moments of progress, and big spending, but the problem persists.

While the sewage flows aren’t daily as they once were, they are maddeningly regular.

“We’ve had over 350 spills over the last three years,” Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina told KUSI following a spill just over a week ago. “That’s one every three days.”

Dedina and others have suggested a diversion system could put sewage in a holding area until it could be put into the treatment system when capacity is freed up. A similar, temporary pond system was built a few decades ago.

Bilbray acknowledges his border shutdown idea is a desperate one and, if it ever happened, would result in many complications. The blowback wouldn’t be just from Mexico but, perhaps even more so, from business interests north of the border.

But nothing seems to be working these days. Over the decades, Bilbray has been party to efforts — some successful, some not — to move solutions forward.

Bilbray’s notion of restricting border crossings is born out of the same frustration he felt nearly 40 years ago.

He’s famously known for commandeering a skip loader and damming the polluted river when he was mayor in 1980. The river mouth wasn’t blocked for long, but he got people’s attention.

A real solution, he said, requires a coordinated local, state and federal sustained push, which has happened before and led to the building of sewage treatment facilities.

“There was real bipartisan effort,” said Bilbray, a Republican.

He noted that decades ago former Rep. Jim Bates, a Democrat, worked with then-Rep. Duncan Hunter (father of the current Republican congressman). And Rep. Bilbray worked with then-Rep. Bob Filner, a Democrat.

Assemblyman and eventual state Sen. Steve Peace, another Democrat, represented the South Bay and also helped bring attention and support for solutions at the state and federal level.

There’s some prickly characters in that crowd, but they managed to work together.

“There was also an ‘us versus them’ mentality in the South Bay,” Peace said, reflecting the thinking that the area was an afterthought among regional powers.

They convinced CBS’ “60 Minutes” to do an exposé on border pollution in Imperial and San Diego counties, which gave the issue national exposure.

Consecutive presidential administrations were lobbied. In 1994, Vice President Al Gore attended the groundbreaking for a border treatment plant. Filner presented him with red boxing gloves for “delivering a knockout blow to Tijuana sewage in this river valley.”

But it didn’t go down for the count.

Sadly, that fix — considered by some as a Band-Aid at the time — are overwhelmed by a growing Tijuana and its deteriorating infrastructure. Much of the city isn’t even hooked up to the existing sewer system.

Any solution requires heavy U.S. involvement and likely funding — or it won’t get done. The “binational” plant that treats sewage from Mexico is on U.S. soil.

“We had to do something ourselves,” Peace said, adding that while they couldn’t count on Mexico to solve the problem, there was good cooperation and communication south of the border.

Besides, he said, “The reality is, we’re downhill.”

But putting together a unified political front isn’t easy. Even decades ago, the Sierra Club sued in an attempt to block the treatment plant, contending there were more environmentally friendly ways to address the problem.

Later, a privately operated treatment project in Mexico known as Bajagua was years in the planning, but eventually collapsed in 2008 after missed deadlines and questions about whether it would live up to its billing — and, significantly, whether it advanced because of backroom dealings.

Dedina, years before he was mayor, was among the opponents. Bilbray and others backed the plan.

While critical of Mexico, local officials also vent at the U.S. federal government for not addressing the problem. A handful of local agencies are planning to sue the U.S. side of the International Boundary and Water Commission.

“I think what’s happening is they no longer care,” Dedina said. “There’s no accountability structure so they can do it and know they can get away with it.”

The growing list of those lining up behind the planned lawsuit includes Imperial Beach, city of San Diego, San Diego County and the Port of San Diego. Coronado has offered to help finance the lawsuit. and the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board has discussed whether to join.

As the legal strategy moves ahead, Bilbray suggests the Trump administration, in essence, should climb on its own skip loader by using the ports of entry to crank up pressure on Mexico.

“You’ve got a wild card in the White House,” Bilbray said. “And that wild card could do something that is a long time coming.”

And that wild card has demonstrated he’s not concerned about any bad PR from his border policies.

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