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KPBS Midday Edition

How Shutting Down San Ysidro Border Crossing Impacts Region's Economy

A group of people waiting to cross into Mexico through the PedWest pedestrian entrance, which was closed on November 25, 2018.
Jean Guerrero
A group of people waiting to cross into Mexico through the PedWest pedestrian entrance, which was closed on November 25, 2018.
How Shutting Down San Ysidro Border Crossing Impacts Region's Economy
How Shutting Down San Ysidro Border Crossing Impacts Region's Economy GUEST: Paola Avila, vice president of international affairs, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce

This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. And I'm Jane Hindmon. San Ysidro is one of the busiest border crossings in the world and our region's economy thrives off the deep economic connections made through jobs and exports. About one hundred thousand people legally cross the port of entry to come to the U.S. every day. Sunday the crossing was closed for five hours after tension between migrants and border patrol. President Trump has threatened to close the port permanently. So how does closing such a busy port impact the regional economy. Paula Avella is the vice president of International Business Affairs for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. She's joining me to answer that question. Paula thanks for being here. Thank you for having me. Now when you heard stand your Seadrill had been shut down on Sunday what was your reaction. We actually weren't surprised because the protest was planned in advance. We knew that it was going to happen and that that was a possible outcome. And the truth is is the third time we've had a shutdown in the last 10 days. It was the longest and most damaging. But you know not completely surprised. And we know the closure had a big impact on the economy. The Santa CEO CHAMBER OF COMMERCE said they saw a loss of 5 million dollars the day the border was closed. How was San Diego impacted and how far reaching is that impact very far reaching. Every industry every sector is impacted our economy is completely tied to that of Mexico's and us and especially the one as the commercial exchange between San Diego and Tijuana is measured at two point one million dollars per day. That's an exchange that's quite significant. And when you multiply that over time of course and it covers industries from tourism to manufacturing impacting all the jobs that we have here in the region really we have a very fluid workforce that crosses the border commutes to work and are companies that depend on that. There are companies that in operations that will come to a complete shutdown if their workforce is not able to arrive at work. In some cases 50 percent of their workforce crosses the border. If you're missing 50 percent of your workforce you can't operate for the day. But aside from that you know because it occurred on a Sunday it was mostly the retail and hospitality industries that were impacted that day. But now we see far reaching consequences where every industry is impacted because workers and consumers are concerned about additional or future border closures or simply border delays because we are operating with fewer lanes today and that uncertainty as we know scares people away. It slows business down. President Trump has threatened to permanently shut down the border. Does that seem plausible to you. It does not. You're talking about shutting down the economy of the country. At that point we've lived through this once before. After 9/11 we had a similar experience and the consequence was devastating. We've learned from that we've learned that you cannot separate our economies you can't. We went through a recession an economic emergency was declared in San Diego after 9/11 because of the downturn. It can't happen again. Over the last several weeks we've seen U.S. troops at the border thousands of migrants living in Tijuana shelters that are overflowing and now an image of a woman and two kids fleeing tear gas. I mean do you. Do you think these images affect the chamber's efforts to promote San Diego and Tijuana as a mega region where cross-border commerce thrives. It's not the image that we've been working on it for years. We have deep collaborative ties that we're very proud of. We've been focused on building bridges physically the cross border Express as an example in a trademark of our region and the message that we convey to our number one trading partner and export market which is Mexico. We want to be open for business. We want to do business. We want these partnerships and this collaboration and we see it at every level of government here in San Diego that collaboration and and fostering of bi lateral relationships. That's the image that we portray here and work on on a daily basis. And given the tense situation at the border do you think the U.S. can continue to enforce the border in a way that doesn't put the region's economy at risk and speaks to what you were just talking about bringing these two countries together. I believe so absolutely. I do believe that in the end this is going to bring us closer together we already see our region working together to address this issue both the private sector and the public sector. There is a lot of differing opinions and conflict but in the end you see nonprofit organizations U.S. business you see community leaders government officials working together and wanting to continue our our ties and strengthening our ties with more migrants on the way to Tijuana. Do you anticipate more closures and you see. There could be more closures. We certainly hope that the measures that the government agencies have taken to secure the border and ensure everyone's safety will be sufficient to prevent closures. And more importantly if there is a closure we're appreciative of our relationship with CBP and government agencies where they've been informing us of closures informing us of when they are open and hopefully they can work to reopen the port as quickly as possible if there is an incident. I've been speaking with Paola Avila the vice president of International Business Affairs for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. Paola thanks so much for joining us. Thank you for having me.

About 100,000 people legally cross the San Ysidro Port of Entry on the U.S.-Mexico border every day.

But for five hours on Sunday, the port was closed to all traffic after hundreds of migrants in Tijuana ran toward the U.S.-Mexico border and clashed with U.S. border officials.

The San Ysidro Port of Entry is the busiest land border crossing in the Western Hemisphere.

So how has the border closure affected the economy on both sides of the border? And what are the short-term and long-term implications if border disruptions become more common?

Paola Avila, vice president of international affairs at the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, discusses the economics behind shutting down the border, Tuesday on Midday Edition.