How Coronavirus Has Changed Life Along U.S.-Mexico Border
Speaker 1: 00:00 In his daily Kovac 19 update. Governor Gavin Newsome announces a new program to help healthcare workers during the Corona virus crisis. The program to provide care for caregivers will offer hotel rooms for weary doctors and nurses and healthcare staff at deep discounts or with state funded vouchers depending on their level of need. Speaker 2: 00:21 Yeah, and we will extend those deep discounts directly to our caregivers and in other cases, again for low income workers, we'll provide 100% reimbursements so that they're allowed to stay closer to their patients and provide them the opportunity not to worry about being out of pocket or worry about exposing their families or God forbid, worried about another nights sleeping in their cars. Speaker 1: 00:47 Also for airlines have offered free flights to healthcare workers across the country who have volunteered to join California's new health Corps. Finally, the governor announced the first dip in the number of total coven ICU patients since the outbreak began in California. The coven 19 pandemic does not respect borders and nowhere is that more clear than in our border region. San Diego and Tijuana are linked by geography, commerce, and family ties. And now they are also linked by Corona virus. Restrictions stay at home orders and closed businesses on both sides of the border have led to empty streets and much less border traffic. And there's rising concern among immigrant advocates of the threat of coven 19 infection to immigrants held in detention on both sides of the border. Journey me, our KPBS reporter max Rivlin, Nadler and max. Welcome. Hi. Thanks for having me and Maya Sri Krishnan of the voice of San Diego border report. And Maya, welcome to the show. Thank you for having me. Maya. Because of the Corona virus pandemic, California has enacted a number of restrictions, you know that staying home, wearing masks, closing non-essential businesses. Is that also the case in Tijuana? Speaker 3: 02:02 Yes, they do have restrictions and they have stay at home orders. Um, they've closed many non-essential businesses at this and I believe local police are enforcing many of those orders. Speaker 1: 02:13 And Maya, how many positive Kovac 19 cases have been reported in Tijuana? Speaker 3: 02:18 So as of Wednesday, there were 200 of the cases in Baja, California. 13 deaths, eight, which were in Tijuana. So Bob California now has the third highest number of cases of any state in Mexico. Speaker 1: 02:33 Cross border travel restrictions are in effect limiting travel to essential workers and those with medical needs. Maya, what has that done to the number of border crossings? Speaker 3: 02:43 So last week U S customs and border protection to pull me that passenger vehicle crossing for down by about 70 to 80%, which is quite significant. Commercial traffic has remained unchanged. This was sort of the goal of the restrictions to try and maintain cross border trade and supply chain. Um, so as Speaker 1: 02:59 of now that's okay, but under crossings for tourism and recreation and things like that are doubting and max hundreds of central American migrants are waiting in Tijuana to come to the U S to seek asylum. What have the new restrictions at the border men for them, Speaker 4: 03:14 it's meant a great deal to them because for the vast majority of them, it's essentially that the border is now closed. Even individuals in programs like the remain in Mexico program who had been sent back to Mexico to wait during their, uh, silent claims as they were processed through the courts. Uh, no longer have those court dates. They'd been postponed, uh, out until may and possibly much longer than that. So for people who have already begun the asylum process that's being postponed for individuals who haven't yet begun the asylum process, that's people who enter outside of a port of event who crossed through the desert or hop offense. They are being sent back to Mexico almost immediately. A border customs and border protection has made a huge deal out of this, a shift in employment that allows them to within a matter of minutes or hours, take people from apprehension and return them back to Mexico. Speaker 4: 04:11 In fact, they said earlier today that um, at least 6,000, 306 migrants have been immediately turned back at the Southwest border. Normally during this amount of time, they apprehend around 10,000 people along the border. So that was during the same timeframe as since the pandemic started. So you're seeing way less people trying to cross the border and almost all of those people being immediately returned back to Mexico. And that's a huge break in a kind of precedent. And in law, it's a massive change in us policy since the refugee act of 1980 and kind of the silence system as we knew it. Speaker 1: 04:51 And you've also maxed been looking at what's going on inside local immigration detention centers is Kovac 19 spreading among the detainees. Speaker 4: 05:01 So for weeks, uh, immigrant, uh, lawyers for immigrants and immigrants themselves had been saying that, you know, the facilities are not a closed system. Obviously employees come in and out and there was just not enough precautions being taken to make sure that the people inside who of course had been inside for some time didn't become infected by those who went home everyday to their family. And unfortunately we've seen a steady stream of more and more people in detention testing positive for Corona virus. So at first it was just one employee than it was five employees at the Otay Mesa detention center. Now we're up to at least seven detainees have tested positive for COBIT 19. Um, and with a lot more suspected cases, four separate pods are now in quarantine at the facility. So unfortunately it looks as though the, an outbreak is very much happening at the OTA Mesa detention center. Um, and they've gotten past the point of trying to wall it off or contain the infection to certain pods. Speaker 1: 06:05 And how are immigration advocates responding to these conditions? Speaker 4: 06:10 Morning, a coalition of immigrant advocates, lawyers, a federal public defenders and public health experts held a press conference discussing the need to massively reduce the amount of people specifically in the private gel jails in San Diego. So that would be the who Tai Mesa detention center, which is run by core civic and geo, which is the jail downtown in San Diego. These facilities have shown, uh, to these advocates that they're incapable of protecting, uh, the people inside and that the most healthiest thing to do would be to release civil immigration detainees to their families and avoid a situation where, because of widespread outbreak, these detention facilities overwhelm local public hospitals. Right? Cause they don't have the facilities able to deal with a Corona virus infection. So not only are the immigration advocates, um, trying to get people out, but the detainees themselves are taking matters into their own hands. This is a individual out the Otay Mesa detention center. Hugh described a hunger strike that they waged over the weekend. Speaker 5: 07:30 [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] a little bit in the you K the beetle [inaudible] Speaker 4: 07:48 so he said, you know, we went on a hunger strike because the majority of us participated in this because the virus can come and it would very likely infect them all. So they're very aware. They have access to the television, they're watching the media reports and they're aware that individuals in the facility have become sick and they're not social distancing from others. They're trying to draw attention to their plight and they're doing that with a hunger strikes. Speaker 1: 08:15 Maya, the other crisis this is causing is an economic one. Any sense of what the economic cost of this shutdown, uh, at these closures at the border, what it's costing? Speaker 3: 08:27 Um, we still don't have a full idea of costs. It's mostly sort of bits and pieces. Um, commercial traffic has been not too impacted, which is good. It means that one aspect of the cross border kind of trade is doing okay. Um, recreation and tourism though do make out a third of borders sayings, um, based on past days of, of a quarter crossers that we've done in the region. So that is definitely going to be a significant impact. And then we do know that this is specifically in Santa Seadrill, right by the border crossing, we're already seeing a decline of 80% in sales even before the border restrictions went into place. Um, just from less movement because of coronavirus. Um, so, you know, we can assume it's going to end up being pretty significant. Speaker 1: 09:14 Let me ask you both, starting with you, Maya, what else will you be paying attention to as this story unfolds along the border? Speaker 3: 09:22 Well, you know, there's a lot of things to look at at the border. Um, we have to continue looking at what is being done with asylum seekers and immigrants who are trying to cross. Um, there's a very important story with, um, medical devices. And that supply chain that's happening at our border, uh, to wanna has become the center of many stories about the production of ventilators and gloves and, um, other protect personal protective equipment and things like that. And so I think what's happening at our border with that is going to be very important moving forward. Speaker 1: 09:53 And max, what will you be paying attention to? Speaker 4: 09:56 Yeah, I mean obviously I would want to, I'm doing a story today on the, um, ongoing outbreak into Juana as the numbers there continued to build and obviously want to look at the medical device angle as how much Mexico will kind of assert itself and want to keep some of the equipment that they're making in their own country. On top of that, I really am interested in seeing how much of the changes that have happened under the guise of the pandemic will remain afterwards because a lot of the steps that have been taken along the border, things that people in the Trump administration have been pushing for for years. So, uh, with ice detention, numbers falling with the amount of people in border patrol stations falling, are we seeing essentially a new normal here that will be justified by the use of, um, you know, warning off a pandemic and saying, listen to CDC. So said we can't allow people in and whether this is a temporary thing or whether this is a much, much longer term thing. Speaker 1: 10:55 Thank you both. I've been speaking with KPBS reporter max, Revlon Adler and Maya Sri Krishnan of the voice of San Diego border report. Thanks. Thanks for your time. Speaker 4: 11:05 Thank you. Speaker 3: 11:05 Thank you for having us. Speaker 6: 11:13 [inaudible].