KPBS takes a look at the news made at the U.S.-Mexico border this year with our Fronteras Desk reporters.
Adrian Florido, Fronteras Desk Reporter
Jill Replogle, Fronteras Desk Reporter
Related Story: 2012: Top Mexico Border Stories
ALLISON ST JOHN: The year is drawing to a close and we are taking a look at the top stories we covered for you in 2012. This is KPBS Midday Edition. Along the border, illegal immigration is down. There have been significant changes in the way immigration laws are enforced and tourism is gradually increasing again south of the border. And we shift focus away from to one end of the art scene with the sad demise of Orchestra Nova and the controversial kiss statue on the waterfront and whole families are now choosing new luxury film theaters for their outings. And stay tuned for a radio play written especially for KPBS. That is all ahead on Midday Edition. First the news. The holidays are upon us. A time to pause and reflect on the year. We will talk about how things have changed along the border and with immigration let's take a look at the big stories in the arts and culture scene here in San Diego. This is KPBS Midday Edition. Today is Monday, December 24 Christmas Eve. I am Allison St. John in for Maureen Cavanaugh. As the year draws to a close we will take a look at some of the most important stories we've told you, stories that help you understand the way the way world around us is changing. Today we will look at what's been happening in the news from border issues. Our Fronteras reporters are covering changes in immigration Latino struggles and success on this side of the border and (inaudible)gradually decreasing violence. KPBS Fronteras desk reporters, Adrian Florido thank you for being here.
ADRIAN FLORIDO: Thanks.
ALLISON ST JOHN: And Jill Replogle.
JILL REPLOGLE: Hi, Allison.
ALLISON ST JOHN: Jill let's start with you, the core is immigration reform and although the president has not done is much as he promised there's been some significant changes this year for immigrants living in this country without, a document so tell us how that's affecting people's lives.
JILL REPLOGLE: Well the Obama administration decided to take some of its own initiatives because Kristen seemed to be taking much initiative focus on one of the things the administration is especially started last year but a series of memos that said we are going to printer prioritize cases against immigrants who either were brought here against as young children or who have strong ties in the community so they actually did a couple pilot projects one in Denver and I believe the other one was in Denver where they went through the cases in immigration court and weeded out the low priority cases. There were cases in individual jurisdictions. I did a profile of a young woman or a young track star who was granted relief under the prosecutorial discretion is what it was called then everything is a relief left in legal limbo basically they were not granted citizenship or legal status to stay here they were just told they were going to be deported so that was sort of the major thing that he did, the administration on their own to try to move forward immigration reform.
ALLISON ST JOHN: Over the summer, Adrian, the president essentially gave undocumented immigrant children the chance to stay here and work legally. Lell us how this is working out
ADRIAN FLORIDO: Rights and this is one of the biggest policy steps that Obama administration has taken on immigration since the president has been in office and what it did was give young immigrants who arrived in the US as children through no fault of their own the opportunity to stay here legally and also to get work permits. So this was kind of a lot of people called it a watered-down version of the dream act which was a big piece of legislation that has been stalled in Congress for about a decade that would give young undocumented immigrants who came here as children who have gone to college or started the military which gives them a pass to citizenship the president's initiatives called deferred action for childhood arrivals, the policy change did not actually give them a pass to citizenship and give him a temporary two-year period during which the consumer culture without the pillar of deportation and also let them have jobs
ALLISON ST JOHN: So it took quite a bit of courage for the people to apply for that giving there's no real certainty or guarantee for the future so what is in the future.
ADRIAN FLORIDO: The policy was not written into law it was just a policy directive by the Pres. And it was received well by the sort of larger immigrant rights community, but obviously they were still very unsatisfied because of the fact that it wasn't written into law and what they've been pushing for a legislative permanent fixes that would address the issue of undocumented immigration here in the US so there's a couple things still out of on the table that are big questions one is the dream act the just mentioned, the other one is what is called comprehensive immigration reform, a set of legislative fixes that would address everything from young undocumented immigrants who want to go to school. The immigration and visa system that just about everyone seems to agree is broken. Guest worker programs. What to do with the other 11 million undocumented immigrants who are in the country and so that is kind of the next big question in the year ahead especially since the president's reelection. In which it became clear that Latinos were a very important part of the electorate so now even Republicans who have so long have been holding back on comprehensive immigration reform are finally recognizing publicly that something has to be done about the problem especially for them if they want to retain support among the Latino community.
ALLISON ST JOHN: One of the reasons that immigration reform is so controversial is the perception that illegal immigrants are sort of flooding across the border but I remember it last year surrounded we talked about how immigration essentially been on the decline is that continuing?
ADRIAN FLORIDO: It has been continuing in the recent statistics one of the interesting milestones we restate recent years that we only became aware of this series for the first time in history the flow of talking specifically about Mexican immigrants to the US was actually cool is not slower than the outflow so in other words boring Mexican immigrants left the US that arrived trip it was a momentous milestone in terms of arbitration here.
ALLISON ST JOHN:We talked about whether the economy improving would improve the trend and start the emigration flowing again and obviously the economy has maybe just started to show signs of possibly improving but the figures are very much still down so are there any other reasons like what's happening in Mexico for why immigration is still down
ADRIAN FLORIDO: There's a lot of reasons cited by researchers one is the huge amount of border enforcement ramped up over the last five or six years or so. Also statistics that show that you know, in part th slightly improving Mexican economy has given Mexicans more opportunity to stay in Mexico and make lives there
ALLISON ST JOHN: What about deportation numbers are they up or down?
ADRIAN FLORIDO: Under the Obama administration deportation has hit record highs, so that's also one more element in the broader picture about why we've got a larger outflow of immigrants than an inflow.
ALLISON ST JOHN:That the other sort of big news that's also in Mexican coverage of the border is the drug war and it's been a couple years since we did stories of daily beheadings in Tijuana so it appears to be a pretty calm here in Tijuana, Jill, as the violence gone elsewhere?
JILL REPLOGLE: It's been pretty common Tijuana there definitely still is violence there. It's not the splashy heads in the street and gunfights in the middle of the day that we saw before there have been some incidents but there sort of pushed out of the center of Tijuana into some of the poor areas and that's part of the reason we do not hear about it as much but violence is definitely down a lot most of the border it's done in Ciudad Juárez, down in Tijuana, as moved to other parts of Mexico but overall violence is something that the new president is sort of honking his horn about. But we took a trip to Tamaulipes which is the state that borders Texas around Brownsville and around the Gulf and some of those cities are still in terrible shape one of the newspapers was threatened right after we left and you know, there were a bunch of killings around the time we were there nothing happened while we were there but there are parts of Mexico that are still in scary situations
ALLISON ST JOHN: For people living in San Diego wonder if it could come back to Tijuana is there any sense that Tijuana could see a resurgence of that depending on what the president does
JILL REPLOGLE: It covers (inaudible) because the sort of rumor, and it's hard-pressed to get this street because it is all underground but there's some sort of agreement between the cartels that clearly drugs are still moving through Tijuana at a rapid rate. There are seizures all the time, but there's probably some sort of agreement that's kind of keeping the peace right now and that could break up any minute.
ALLISON ST JOHN:Let's talk about Tijuana then I know that the officials down there attempting to put to rest the idea that it's a violent city and say that it is a safe city and putting out a lot of positive publicity. How successful is that?
JILL REPLOGLE: They had a lot of great publicity this year mostly on my food scene. You might have heard, hard to find anyone who doesn't know that Tijuana has great food these days.
ADRIAN FLORIDO: One or two festivals about new press releases and restaurants in all kinds of conferences happening in Tijuana just about every day Tijuana has been on a very big push to really attract a lot of the tourists that left you know 2008, 2009 when the violence really started peaking. When I first moved to San Diego in early 2009 eight been several years since I've actually been to Tijuana and I were shocked really when I walked down the main tourist or downtown and saw that it was absolutely dead, absolutely empty a lot of the tourist and curio shops were shuttered down and in the three years that I've been here there's been a slow gradual resurgence, gradual but steady resurgence of Tijuana's tourist and art scene and it looks a little bit different, tourists are promoting really high-end restaurants, kind of hipster, art scene, you know there's a big Association the Tijuana has with the wine Valley which is not far from there. So instead, they're trying to kind of promote the new image of the newly defined Tijuana.
ALLISON ST JOHN:Is there any evidence that it is working is there evidence that people are going down across the border?
ADRIAN FLORIDO: I don't have figures on hand but from personal experience I go to Tijuana several times a week in the last few years have seen a steady resurgence of the flow of traffic. There's also a lot of infrastructural improvements that are currently as we speak underway in downtown Tijuana to make the area safer, lights are being cut up, infrastructure is being rebuilt, streets are being repaved. So Tijuana tourism officials are really hoping that this will all help the kind of tourism of the Americans return for the most part.
ALLISON ST JOHN: Somebody who hasn't been there for a while might be a surprise when they go down and see the changes in the city
ADRIAN FLORIDO: They will see quite a different Tijuana than what they remember at least one is in the process of being rebuilt.
ALLISON ST JOHN:What if you go to other parts of the country, Jill? Lots of people like to drive down, how secure would you say that is now?
JILL REPLOGLE: In Baja, I would want to put anyone security in my hands, but I think it's pretty safe. I've never encountered a problem down there and I don't think, I haven't heard of anyone who has on the roads or anything. I think people used mostly complain about getting stopped by police and been asked for bribes and things like that and I haven't heard about that trait they really want people to come back and I've only encountered I've only had good experiences.
ALLISON ST JOHN: He went on the trip and brought back some stories this last year and most of them suggest pretty positive developments.
JILL REPLOGLE: We went way down south. What I can say is we definitely didn't see a whole lot of tourists. I think people are either either scared off or scared off by the border wait time on the way back which is probably you know, the biggest reason people aren't going because you might get scared stuck in a three-hour raid on the way back.
ALLISON ST JOHN:Give us a quick update on that, Adrian, and we've done stories on the border infrastructure.
ADRIAN FLORIDO: US and Mexico are undergoing huge construction projects to try to improve efficiencies the border wait time but in the meantime as the stuff gets built that means you have to close down certain lanes as you construct them some border wait times are getting really bad recently three, to four hours during weeks 4 to 5 hours on the weekends and I spoke just last week for a story I'm working on now to the assistant board director at San Ysidro and he really has hopes that once the project is all said and done by 2016 the border wait times at peak times will be no more than 30 min. I was talking with people sitting in their cars and seeing their faces and siding to them some of the statistics and seeing their eyes, more than anything we will believe it when we see it.
ALLISON ST JOHN: Let's move back to the side of the border and quickly talk about some of the issues that he's been covering up in Escondido where that has been a hotspot for Latino rights. Would you say they are making any headway up there, with that what you are seeing what the stories you cover up there.
ADRIAN FLORIDO: Earlier this year there was a big push by Latino Activist kind of allied with labor groups to try to get the city Council kind of electoral process reformed in the city. They wanted to draw districts and city Council members elected by district as opposed to kind of a citywide vote
ALLISON ST JOHN:To give them a more of a chance to get someone on the Council
ADRIAN FLORIDO: The idea being that some of the district would be predominantly Latino and you have a better chance of getting Latinos elected to the city Council because at this point almost majority Latino city has only had one Latina councilmember in 126 year history and that's one of the big things that's been kind of one of the big stories recently and it seems pretty clear that electoral districts will be drawn in Escondido in the years to come. A big part of this is that local activist groups have identified Escondido is really kind of a city where the large Latino community is very heavily underrepresented at least in terms of Latinos and so there's been a big push by activist groups to mobilize Latinos there. The ACLU locally is getting very heavily involved. They just appointed a new Latina director to focus on Latina issues and this is going to be one of the main focuses of that organization at least in the years to come.
ALLISON ST JOHN: And at least as we know Latinos make their voices heard in a way that's really beginning to suggest that perhaps the giant is awakening.
ADRIAN FLORIDO: And that is emboldening people to do a lot more to keep the giant waking up.
ALLISON ST JOHN:Just have a minute to talk about the stories you'll be talking about next year, Jill, what you think will be in the story next year?
JILL REPLOGLE: Definitely immigration reform we will see if it's going anywhere it's been talked about for years but it does seem like there's momentum how to get that moving. The other thing is with Mexico's president what is going to happen with the drug war? He's indicated he wants to take slightly different strategy focusing on reducing violence to ordinary citizens. Some people think that means he's not going to crack down on cartels anymore and that might be good or not and drug legalization and a couple states in the country is definitely going to affect how next good deals with the drug war on that side of the border.
ALLISON ST JOHN: Great and 30 seconds, you, Adrian?
ADRIAN FLORIDO: I think there'll be interesting stories to look at in terms of the intersection of Obama care and healthcare reform and possible immigration reform to look at the way the immigrant communities in the US may or may not be covered by any healthcare reform, right? Under the new healthcare reform just about everyone except for undocumented immigrants would be eligible for some kind of health. The question is whether if immigration doesn't go through to undocumented immigrants become sort of the only people that are still using emergency rooms and a substantially onto their stigmatization within society and those that become a general kind of health care within immigration community is something that we at the frontiers desk is something we will be taking a look at.
ALLISON ST JOHN:A lot changing thank you so much for joining us Jill Replogle and Adrian Florido.
JILL REPLOGLE: Thanks Allison
ADRIAN FLORIDO: Thanks