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What Would A ‘Frictionless Border’ Between San Diego And Tijuana Look Like?

Cars wait to enter the U.S. from Mexico at the San Ysidro Port of Entry near San Diego on Aug. 1, 2011.

Photo by Jose Luis Jiménez

Above: Cars wait to enter the U.S. from Mexico at the San Ysidro Port of Entry near San Diego on Aug. 1, 2011.

Aired 5/1/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.


Mary Walshok, UC San Diego Extension

Jill Replogle, KPBS Border Reporter

A new report from the University of California San Diego advocates for a "frictionless" U.S.-Mexico border. This would allow commercial and pedestrian traffic to flow more quickly between San Diego and Tijuana, the report says.

Its authors believe that such a change in diplomatic and economic strategy would enable the San Diego-Tijuana border crossing to greatly accelerate binational economic growth and prosperity, rather than serving as a choke-point of congestion.

Mary Walshok, co-author of the report and dean of UCSD Extension, discussed the concept Thursday on KPBS Midday Edition:

"We need to begin to see our borders as economic arenas, not as national security arenas. We need Department of Commerce and Department of Labor to weigh in because the ways in which economic zones are developing in the 21st century contradict the current geographical boundaries we are living with."

The 25-page report, "From Border Barriers to Bi-National Promise: What the Future Could Be with

a Frictionless Border,” determined that a more efficient border could generate up to $7.2 billion in economic growth between the United States and Mexico.

It was prepared by the Creative Class Group, a New York-based urban-studies consulting firm, in partnership with Global CONNECT, a research division of UCSD Extension.

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Avatar for user 'xwagner'

xwagner | May 1, 2014 at 12:19 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

Impressively shameless. I love all the feathery buzzwords, and the phrase "greatly accelerate binational economic growth and prosperity" is a gem. Meanwhile, back on Earth, what this woman is talking about is taking advantage of our third-world neighbor to the south, the utter lack of environmental law, absence of organized labor and worker's rights -- and, gee, how would this provide employment for regular US citizens? Or are they just excluded from this corporate wet dream? Someone got paid to dream up the "frictionless border" concept? Have they ever worked a single day in their life, or has it all been corporate fluffing? "We need to re-imagine the border region and ask ourselves how we can make it more amenable to the interests of the 1% in the USA." Amazing.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | May 1, 2014 at 12:46 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

The problem with San Diego's economic ties to Mexico is that many of the very same "free market" capitalists who claim consumer demand should drive economic policy are also Nationalistic, Xenophobic, and dare I say sometimes outright racists.

There should be a big red asterisk next to their "free market" credentials that stipulates: WARNING: pro free-market capitalism only when it doesn't interfere with my Nativist beliefs.

San Diego has the potential to be one of the top 5 economic engines in the country due to our strategic location on both the Pacific Ocean and on the busiest land border in the world.

But decades of "old school" conservative leadership have decided our neighbor to the south should be ridiculed, ignored, and marginalized as opposed to building a working economic and social partnership that would benefit both sides and also allow for us to even have influence over some of the negative aspects that xwagner has mentioned that I do believe are real concerns.

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Avatar for user 'muckapoo1'

muckapoo1 | May 1, 2014 at 1:24 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

There goes duck with the name calling and labeling. Everyone who disagrees is a racist and old world. Let's just pretend that our"neighbors to the south" government is corrupt. Forget that much of the country is controlled by armed thugs. It makes no difference that their government will not even think of returning criminals for a trial for crimes done here. The rapists and murderers know if they get over the border, they are safe. There is your free trade. This whole article is about a more relaxed border. More thugs and unskilled workers to deal with.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | May 1, 2014 at 1:40 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

muckapoo, If my post conveyed to you that I view anyone who doesn't agree with me as a racist, then I apologize as I clearly didn't articulate my point very well.

I was trying to point out the irony that many of the same influential people in power, be it public or private, who espouse this type of pure capitalism doctrine are some of the very same people who also take on Xenophobic, Nativist and SOMETIMES even racist positions.

I'm not disagreeing with you that Mexico has serious problems, but MUCH of the world has serious problems (WE have serious problems, our government wants to hold an exclusive monopoly over the cyber data of everyone on the planet!!) and we don't cut-off economic ties except in extreme circumstances like North Korea.

I also think it's wrong to take out frustration with Mexico's government on its citizens.

You rail against Mexico as being so corrupt and having such a terrible government, but then you also rail against Mexicans who are trying to ESCAPE said corruption and become Americans - it seems as there is no winning with your viewpoint on this matter.

My personal opinion is that some of the problems Mexico faces could be better dealt with in a partnership, one with economic incentives, instead of in this condescending matter where we throw up our arms and say just wall ourselves off, they are beyond hope.

That's completely impractical.

And, as my original point was trying to suggest, it also goes against the very free-market principles many people on the right espouse.

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Avatar for user 'muckapoo1'

muckapoo1 | May 1, 2014 at 3:05 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

OK duck, I get it and apologize. I think you and I may have more in common than I thought. I am tired of our government trying to save the world through foreign aid. I get upset when we put other nations and their people ahead of US citizens. I would be open to greater domestic aid for our poor and disabled if we were not throwing cash out of the country. American first. Mexico and Canada next. All others need to start fending for themselves. We cannot afford to feed the world. We will destroy this country trying. Duck, we send millions of $'s to Russia for their military. That is just wrong when people here need help.
That being said, I have no sympathy for the 30 something begging at the freeway exit. I am 69 years old. I have raised my family to be successful. They require no help. I still work part time. LOL Hate to stop for fear of dying.
However, tired of helping those who refuse to help themselves. I have little tolerance for any criminal. Yes, even those who illegally cross the border. I don't even have a moving violation on my licence. I did it, they can too.
I may be delirious, but I expect my elected officials, at all levels, to do what the swore to. Obey the Constitution and the laws of the State they represent. Quit bowing to prospective voters. To do their job.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | May 1, 2014 at 8:42 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

XXXVAGNER, they DO have organized labor in Mexico.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | May 1, 2014 at 8:44 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago


Pot kettle blackkk, my friend, pot kettle very blackkk, _uckkkapoop!.

Now get back to your Glenn Beckkk reruns, I think the viagra commercial is over!

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | May 1, 2014 at 8:45 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

Hey _uckkkapoop1 WE ARE NOT "feeding" the world. By the way, did YOU give money at your local Von's to help stop hunger in the USA???

No, I didn't think so. All rant and no though.

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | May 2, 2014 at 7:55 a.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

Really?!?! The border can be better than it is now?!?! With all due respect to the well-intentioned folks at UCSD and CCG, that conclusion can be reached with the naked eye.

Muckapoo (or is it the Ghost of Muckapoo who swore-off this comment board two months ago?), Mission is right. The Confederacion de Trabajadores de Mexico (CTM) is a real thing. It has traditionally been more aligned with the AFL-CIO and resisted the International Worker Party and satellite communist labor groups. Like George Meany, Fidel Velasquez was a giant in the world of organized labor.

The best benefit of better traffic flow across the border would be extending the South Bay's housing market into Tijuana. There are thousands of people who would live in Tijuana and commute to SD for work if they didn't have to wait 3-hours to cross. Extending the curve on SD's rental market would relieve some of the pressure on the lower-end ... all while still collecting income taxes from wages earned in San Diego. Tijuana/San Diego commuters would still buy the majority of their goods here on their way back home. Better traffic flow would increase retail sales in San Diego, particularly the South Bay. (Extra added bonus: With improved worker permit/visa programs and better cross-border traffic, you just might see fewer cases of illegal residency.)

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | May 2, 2014 at 9:23 a.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

A frictionless border would look like the most massive amount of drugs, money, and illegal aliens flowing across a border on earth.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | May 2, 2014 at 10:26 a.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

John Markkk, that would be fricitonless???

_ckkkapoop1 or Ghost of _uckkkapoop1, when was the last time you saw a Messican asking for money on a freeway exit??? I thought they were busy taking your job away!

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Avatar for user 'sdreefer21'

sdreefer21 | May 2, 2014 at 10:27 a.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

If we are able to help stabilize and grow mexico this concept would be amazing. Until then this is just a pipe dream. There is no economic incentive at this time to head a short bit south.

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Avatar for user 'RLA'

RLA | May 2, 2014 at 8:17 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

Maybe KPBS should have waited to read the more complete Union Tribune article on this topic before skimming off the liberal dream part for dissemination.

A more full look at the study brought a lot more light to the many factors involved.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | May 4, 2014 at 12:57 a.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

RLA, the "UT'" is a partisan journalistic nightmare.

If you prefer their biased coverage then have at it, but do t go around insisting other outlets follow their right wing agenda.

KPBS while not perfect does a good job looking at both sides of an issue with minimum bias.

Apparently your so far right that objectively for your is the PRAVDA UT and the bleached blonde bimbettes on Fox "news"

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Avatar for user 'RLA'

RLA | May 4, 2014 at 8:13 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

Did you happen to read the UT article or do you restrict your reading to the more liberal leaning media? My comments above come from the fact that I found out much more about the study by reading reports from both "sides".

The fact that the border is totally controlled by Homeland Security without significant input from either State or Commerce is a key factor in restricting the economic growth of cross border relations/business. While security is certainly important there has to be a better way to maintain security without strangling commerce and tourism.

Before you judge my left or right tendencies you might want to look into opinions expressed rather than condemning me because my reading has a broad range.

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Avatar for user 'Ranthalomew'

Ranthalomew | May 6, 2014 at 9:42 a.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

Duck, Have you ever thought that maybe if a person who is completely unfamiliar with your culture, does not have a college degree, has no social connections in a new country and does not speak the language is a threat to your labor force, then maybe citizens must be better at what they do.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | May 6, 2014 at 11:43 a.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

RLA your middle paragraph is 200% correct. The Bush-initiated DHS would figure to choke commerce and trade. We do NOT need a DHS. Even during the Cold War we never had one, but I guess since the Cold War has ended, the USA needs to find a new boogeyman. September 11th is manipulated into being used as a pretext.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | May 6, 2014 at 11:46 a.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

Addendum. It's funny that when it comes to trade and trans-border commerce, the usual Free Enterprisers who usually complain about here about how the City of San Diego is sooo burdensome on new businesses and businesses in general and hamper economic growth, become strangely silent.

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Avatar for user 'RLA'

RLA | May 6, 2014 at 6:48 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

Missionaccomplished- I'm not advocating doing away with border security, just stating that it needs to be tempered to allow commerce and travel to operate more freely. As a frequent border crosser I often suffer from waits that seem to defy reason. Last crossing was Monday a week ago with two hours spent in line at Tecate. This just seemed slow, other times the line moves faster, all at the whim of the CPB folks. You never know. If there is a goal shared by DHS, STATE, and COMMERCE I believe we would see a big improvement in crossborder travel.

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