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Roundtable On Mexican Farm Labor, Border Traffic, Chula Vista Politics

A photo of 9-year-old Pedro Vasquez working on a farm near Leon, Guanajuato.
Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times
A photo of 9-year-old Pedro Vasquez working on a farm near Leon, Guanajuato.
Roundtable Looks At Product Of Mexico Series
Roundtable On Mexican Farm Labor, Border Traffic, Chula Vista Politics
Roundtable: Mexican Farm Labor; Short border Waits; Chula Vista Elections HOST: Mark SauerGUESTS:Richard Marosi, Los Angeles Times Dean Calbreath, San Diego Daily Transcript Robert Moreno, The Star News

Product Of Mexico

Exports from Mexican farms to the U.S. have tripled in the past decade to some $7.6 billion, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Reporter Richard Marosi's four-part series in the Times reveals some agribusinesses, food distributors and American retailers, such as Wal-Mart, Vons and Kroger, are getting rich off the exports.

But others — the mostly indigenous laborers who harvest the produce — live in squalor. Many are effectively prisoners in rat-infested labor camps, unable to leave because their wages have been withheld and are deeply in debt to the company store for basic necessities.

According to the newspaper's series, American retailers are diligent about enforcing rules that protect American consumers but they have done little or nothing to enforce social responsibility guidelines for humane treatment of laborers, including children, often relying on Mexican growers to monitor themselves.

Mexican government inspectors say they are powerless to confront rich growers who laugh at them, according to Marosi's reporting.

Shorter Border Waits, More Traffic?

It used to take a few hours — sometimes three or four — to cross the border from Tijuana into San Diego at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. Now it can take a few minutes (except during holidays), thanks to the opening of all 25 lanes from Mexico into the U.S.

An expansion project has doubled the number of inspection booths, and upgraded technology has made processing travelers faster. Workers and business leaders are thrilled.

But there is a new concern: congestion along the northbound freeways.

Gary Gallegos, executive director of San Diego Association of Governments, met recently with South County city leaders about housing and business trends and found that freeway congestion was a top issue for some.

Is there any real evidence to support this concern? How has the business climate improved because of lower border waits?

Election Is Finally Over In Chula Vista

Mary Salas became Chula Vista's mayor this month and an entire school board was replaced.

But one race was not resolved until this week: Chula Vista City Council Seat 1. That race ended when the recount of the John McCann-Steve Padilla contest was stopped with McCann the victor by two votes — 18,448 to Padilla's 18,446.

The Sweetwater Union High School District pay-to-play scandals, which date to 2011, caused the board to lose four members and changed election procedures for 2014. Members must now be elected by district. The new rules brought five new members to the board. Four are endorsed by the teachers union, and the board's first task is to choose a new superintendent.

What questions do you have about the Statewide General Election coming up on Nov. 8? Submit your questions here, and we'll try to answer them in our reporting.