Trump’s threats to close border scare San Diego residents into staying home

JUDY WOODRUFF: About 120 miles west from the
stretch of border President Trump visited today is the country’s busiest land port of
entry. Tens of thousands of people cross the border
near San Diego every day for school, work or shopping. As Jean Guerrero from PBS station KPBS reports,
if the president follows through on threats to close the U.S.-Mexico border, it would
have a big impact on local residents and the economy. JEAN GUERRERO: More than 100,000 people cross
the border daily through San Diego and Tijuana, and the cities exchange more than $4 billion
a year. President Trump has floated closing the border
to address the unprecedented number of families applying for asylum in the U.S. DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States:
We’re going to have a strong border or we’re going to have a closed border. JEAN GUERRERO: President Trump subsequently
backed off, giving Mexico a year to solve the crisis, or else. Threats to close the border are scaring people
here. San Diego’s hotels rely on workers from Tijuana. Americans who can’t afford San Diego housing
live in Tijuana while commuting to work. Wealthier Mexicans send their kids to private
school in San Diego. And San Diegans who can’t afford health care
in the U.S. go to doctors in Tijuana, such as Bertha Herrero, who lives in San Diego,
but has a dentist in Tijuana. BERTHA HERRERO, San Diego: And I came here
because it’s cheap, or cheaper, in Tijuana than in San Diego. JEAN GUERRERO: Herrero is seeing a doctor
at the first Mexican HMO to be licensed as a health care provider by the state of California. SIMNSA offers medical and dental services
to Americans, but in Tijuana. President Frank Carrillo says dozens of people
canceled their appointments this week because Trump’s threats to close the border made them
afraid they’d get stuck in Mexico if they crossed. FRANK CARRILLO, CEO, SIMNSA: Just the threats
alone, just that in itself is already creating a problem. People don’t want to make the trip. JEAN GUERRERO: Carrillo says the HMO employs
about 500 physicians, and treats between 1,500 and 2,000 patients every day. He says closing the border would be devastating,
not only for his business, but for most of the people he knows. FRANK CARRILLO: We’re dividing families by
doing this. So, really, nobody wins in this situation. Nobody wins. JEAN GUERRERO: San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer
believes in the benefits of cross-border trade. KEVIN FAULCONER (R), Mayor of San Diego, California:
Our relationship with our friends in Tijuana, our relationship with Mexico is a strength
of ours. JEAN GUERRERO: Many local residents live as
if the region were a single place. LUCILA CONDE, Nonprofit Worker: San Diego
and Tijuana are really one metropolitan area. Even though there’s a border between us that
separates us geographically and politically and all this stuff, we are one community. JEAN GUERRERO: Lucila Conde works at a San
Diego nonprofit that installs solar panels for low-income families. But she has a house in Tijuana and cares for
sick relatives over there. LUCILA CONDE: We have commitments and relationships
on both sides. I have a family member who is on dialysis
in Mexico, and she requires help and attention. JEAN GUERRERO: Every morning, dozens of new
asylum seekers arrive at the port of entry to put their names on a waitlist. It takes weeks to be called to speak to a
U.S. customs officer because of the long backlog. Most are from southern Mexico and Central
America. Some come from other areas. One woman, who’s been waiting since last month,
is from Cuba. WOMAN (through translator): If they close
the border, I don’t know what’s going to happen to us. JEAN GUERRERO: She asked for anonymity because
she fears for her life. WOMAN (through translator): When a human leaves
her country, her culture, her habits and roots, it’s because she must, because the saddest
thing in the world is be a migrant. People humiliate you. They mistreat you. JEAN GUERRERO: Back at the medical practice,
Carrillo says that, as much as he fears for his business, he fears for asylum seekers,
too. FRANK CARRILLO: It is real. It’s not fabricated. We do have a crisis. The crisis is in Central America. These people are fleeing poverty and violence. So the answer to this problem is, go to the
root of the problem. The root of the problem is there. JEAN GUERRERO: He says the U.S. should help
people in Central America. But President Trump recently announced plans
to end all aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador as punishment for failing to stem
the tide of migrants. For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Jean Guerrero
at the border.

Stephen Childs

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