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Trump Backs Off Border Shutdown But Threatens Auto Tariffs

 April 4, 2019 at 12:05 PM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm jade Hindman just ahead of his visit to Calexico. President Trump is walking back his threats to close the u s Mexico border. Today, the president suggested the most effective way to pressure Mexico to deal with border and immigration problems is to impose new tariffs on automotive parts. But before that happens, Trump says the u s will give Mexico a one year warranty. Speaker 2: 00:23 The whole ball game is cars as the big ballgame with many countries, it's cars. And if that doesn't stop the drugs, we closed the border. Speaker 1: 00:34 Homeland Security Director, Kiersten Nielsen has reportedly compared the situation at the border to a category five hurricane. The administration's response is already involved the redeployment of thousands of federal workers away from border checkpoints. KPBS border reporter Gene Guerrero. We'll be in Calexico tomorrow with the president and she joins me now. Welcome gene. Hi Jade. So how do these threats play into the trade agreement that was signed last year between the US, Mexico and Canada to replace Nafta? Right. So that treaty is called the Eus MCA, the between the United States, Mexico, and Canada. And it essentially, it's supposed to limit the tariff sat. The U S is able to place on automotive parts from Mexico among many other things. It promotes free trade and it's something that Trump had touted as this great success of his administration signing it, uh, last year and now he appears to be willing to kind of tear it up, uh, to get what he wants in terms of border security. Speaker 1: 01:35 He's saying that for him, security is more important than trade. You reported on significant declines in cross border business traffic between San Diego and Tijuana. A does that seem to reflect a concern about current conditions or anticipation of what the future might bring? So really it's fear related to the threats to close the border and confusion because as we are seeing today, the president, you know, it goes back and forth as to his threats. Um, first he was saying he was going to close the border and now he's saying maybe not. Um, and so people are just afraid and they don't know what's going on. And so a lot of people are choosing not to cross the border because they're afraid that they're going to get stuck on the wrong side for them. So, you know, tea, do you want a residence, uh, not wanting to come shop in San Ysidro because they're afraid they'll get stuck. Speaker 1: 02:25 And same for San Diego residents who don't want to go visit relatives in Tijuana or go for a drink down there because they're afraid that they're going to get stuck. And how tightly are the economies of Tijuana and San Diego connected? It's more than $4 billion a year in trade and more than a million dollars a day. Um, and it, and it's very, very tightly intertwined. Those two economies, about 20% of the hotel jobs here in San Diego rely on residents of Tijuana who crossed the border every day. You have students who crossed the border from Tijuana, go to s to private schools in San Diego. Um, and then you have a whole industries that are just very intertwined. Do you have car manufacturing parts that are made on both sides of the border, uh, to make up what is called an integrated supply chain, a biotech and medical services. All of these things are very closely intertwined on both sides of the border and and not just [inaudible] but other parts of Mexico work very closely with a San Diego in terms of trade and various types of businesses and the Trump administration has talked about as many as 900,000 immigrants at the southern border. Speaker 1: 03:35 Have you seen that many people? We are seeing a major influx of families, but again it's important to note that the people who are coming are families who are asking for asylum, that that is the major increase that we're seeing rather than individuals who are crossing illegally there. Many of the majority are people who are coming to the ports of entry. So early this week I was at the San Ysidro port of entry on the Mexican side of the border and I saw the same scene that has been going on for months now. People putting their names on an asylum wait list that is managed by asylum seekers themselves and they end up having to wait weeks, sometimes months to get into the United States, but they're waiting to come in legally. It is a fact that because of these long wait times that they're facing because of the backlog, some people do choose to cross illegally. Speaker 1: 04:25 Um, but again, they, they immediately present themselves to border patrol and ask for asylum and a majority of those cases. And do you have any sense of how people on the other side of the border are talking about the Trump administration's immigration policy? Yeah. So I mean, one thing that you've seen is the increase in patriotism in, in Mexico where people, Tijuana residents choose to purchase and stay within [inaudible] to show their Mexican pride in opposition to this sort of, um, hostile language from the president of the United States towards the Mexico. There's a whole campaign that started last year called [inaudible] I purchase in Tijuana. And again, that's kind of leading to these decreased sales in places like sandy CGIAR in San Diego. Um, but in general, under the Andres, Manuel Lopez Obrador administration, we are seeing an increase in nationalism in Mexico just as we're seeing an increase in nationalism in the United States. Speaker 1: 05:22 But when you look at corporations, particularly those that are close to the border, they're continuing to try to send a message of how important the cross border economy and collaboration is to both sides, to both countries. Uh, you had the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce just go to, they're just wrapping up their trip in Mexico City where they're advocating for these types of relationships, um, and increased infrastructure to facilitate that collaboration. All of that said, are there any protest plan for Trump's visit to Calexico? What's the local reaction like? So the local reaction is mixed for sure. I do know that there is a San Diego activist named William Johnson who's getting together with the Calexico city council member, muddied, sold Thatto and a few other activists to fly what is called the baby Trump balloon. Um, it's been making headlines across the globe and it's essentially just this very large balloon in the form of an infant in diapers. That's the with the likeness of president Trump and they're hoping that the president will see it during his visit in Calexico. I've been speaking with KPBS border reporter, Gene Guerrero. Jean, thanks. Thank you. Andrew. Listening to KPBS midday edition.

Abandoning his threat to immediately seal the southern border, President Donald Trump warned instead on Thursday that he'd slap tariffs on cars coming to the U.S. from Mexico unless the country does more to stop the flow of migrants and drugs coming to the U.S. GUEST: Jean Guerrero, border reporter, KPBS News