Tuesday, 31 Mar 2020

California Today: What Border Chaos Means for San Ysidro

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Over the weekend, chaos erupted at the San Ysidro border crossing, as U.S. agents fired tear gas at Central American migrants trying to cross into the country from Tijuana. I asked the Times national correspondent Jennifer Medina to talk about what these kinds of confrontations might mean for the region. Here’s our conversation, edited and condensed for space.

Jill Cowan: You and our colleague, Jose A. Del Real, reported on the economic impact of shutting down one of the busiest border crossings in the world. Can you describe what San Ysidro is like?

Jennifer Medina: San Ysidro is a kind of suburb of San Diego. Like many Southern California towns, one of the defining features is the sprawling strip malls.

In this case, that includes the giant outlet mall. And across the street there’s a bunch of discount chains, like Ross and T.J. Maxx. I’ve been to outlet malls along the 5 Freeway where many — maybe even the majority — of customers are Latino. But this is something different. We’re talking about 90 percent of customers coming from south of the border.

Tell me about the situation there now.

People who live along the San Ysidro section of the border are always watching carefully. They monitor wait times, they read the news from Mexico, they pay attention to whatever the president is saying. Thousands commute for work and school.

Those commuters are really concerned that the border is going to suddenly become a far less predictable place. Many of them say that San Diego and Tijuana are one region, codependent on each other. If they can’t easily move, it will have a massive impact on the economy and the emotional feel of the place.

There have been fights on this part of the border for decades — in the height of California’s intense battles over illegal immigration, there were often images of people running through the fields in Tijuana at night to enter the U.S.

And of course, there was the infamous freeway sign.

The one depicting the shapes of running people crossing? Yep, I know that one.

Who could forget it?

Are folks worried that this kind of opening and closing of the border will be a new normal?

They really don’t know what to expect, given the president’s pronouncements.

Are business groups in the San Diego area trying to make contingency plans if this kind of disruption becomes more frequent? Business hates uncertainty.

It does. The Chamber of Commerce is focusing on communication with Border Patrol, trying to get as much advance notice of any closings as they possibly can.

I think the question for them is what happens to the $255 billion Cali-Baja regional economy if the region is sliced in half.

California Online

(Please note: We regularly highlight articles on news sites that have limited access for nonsubscribers.)

• “I’m here for now. I’m not sure what comes next.” Migrants on both sides of the border who are seeking asylum in the U.S. have found themselves waiting — painfully, indefinitely. [The New York Times]

• A new Pew report found that fewer people were living in the country without documentation in 2016 than in 2007. Here are five takeaways. [The New York Times]

• Both the Trump administration and environmentalists say the U.S. can — and should — produce more of its own seafood in sea ranches, like ones off the Southern California coast. [The Washington Post]

• A Texas Ranger visited a man serving life sentences in a Los Angeles County prison for the murders of three women in the 1980s. Then the stories started pouring out. So far, the man has confessed to more than 90 murders. [The New York Times]

Newly Democratic Orange County isn’t exactly on its way to becoming San Francisco. Though suburbs are turning nominally blue, underneath are “still commitments to a lot of kinds of inequality.” [The New York Times]

• Sad news: P-74, a mountain lion that park rangers had recently begun tracking, is believed to have died in the Woolsey Fire. [The New York Times]

• Facing undisclosed sexual misconduct allegations, Eric Bauman, the chairman of the California Democratic Party, said he’d step down from his position during an investigation into his conduct. [The Sacramento Bee]

• A new ramen shop is a game changer — even on Costa Mesa’s already noodle-rich “Ramen Row.” [The Orange County Register]

• Elon Musk’s tunneling company, Boring Co., has dropped its plans to dig beneath Sepulveda Boulevard on Los Angeles’s Westside after a lawsuit. [The Los Angeles Times]

• Los Angeles’s Arts District is now home to a Christmas-themed pop-up “experience,” Fa La Land. Enjoy with care. [Los Angeles Magazine]

And Finally …

On Tuesday, the world mourned the death of Stephen Hillenburg, a Humboldt State University graduate who at one point taught marine biology in Orange County. He also created SpongeBob SquarePants.

Mr. Hillenburg introduced a generation of cartoon watchers to a bizarre and beautiful underwater universe known as Bikini Bottom in 1999. Since then, SpongeBob SquarePants has become a cultural juggernaut, spawning everything from movies to memes to a Broadway musical. Hip-hop artists, the music site Genius noted in a video, have made dozens of references to Mr. SquarePants and his pals.

While the Nickelodeon show was aimed at young children, its soothing tropical aesthetic and earnest humor made it popular long after its initial target audience grew up.

Read the full obituary here.

California Today goes live at 6 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: [email protected].

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

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