Category Archives: San Diego Tijuana Border Region

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Easier route soon to A.L. Rodriguez International Airport in Tijuana

Just yesterday, I was out in Otay Mesa at the Brown Field Border Patrol station for a meeting, and I realized just how close we are to A.L. Rodriguez International Airport on the northeast side of Tijuana.  You can literally get out of your car on Brittania Blvd, walk for a couple of minutes over to a fence, and you will be standing right next to the runways.

Yup, I could throw my suitcase over the fence, and get on the plane right there.  But you can’t get to the airport from here.  Nope.  Gotta go all the way into Tijuana through a Port of Entry, and on your way home, you can be sure you will end up  sitting in your car for hours to get back into the U.S.

But help is on the way, from Sam Zell, the guy who bought the L.A. Times.  Read more…

Group wants to link US fliers to Mexican airport

From the Associated Press,  February 13, 2011

TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) — The Flores family’s frequent trips to visit family in Mexico begin with a two-hour drive from their suburban Los Angeles home to San Diego, followed by a quick jaunt across the border to the Tijuana airport for the flight to Guadalajara.

Getting there is breeze, but the trip home can take twice as much time due to long lines of cars waiting to cross back onto U.S. soil.

“It’s a waste of time, but we save money by flying out of here,” Noel Flores of Rosemead said as he waited with his parents for a flight out of A.L. Rodriguez International Airport.

A shorter trip could be just steps away if a group of Mexican and American investors, including real estate mogul Sam Zell, is able to build a pedestrian bridge connecting ground transportation on the American side of the border to the Tijuana airport.

Supporters of the plan believe it will help relieve traffic at two nearby border crossings, maximize use of the Tijuana airport, and steer Southern Californians away from other international airports in the region.

The $78 million project calls for a two-story building and parking lot in Otay Mesa, an industrial district on the southernmost end of San Diego, where passengers can park their cars or get dropped off, pick up their boarding passes inside a lobby before going through U.S. Customs and Border Protection checkpoints. From there, they can pay a fee to walk across the 525-foot bridge and reach the Tijuana airport where they can show their passports to Mexican immigration officers before proceeding to security check-ins and boarding.

“The main reason this makes sense is that it’s a quick, convenient and secure way to cross the border,” said Greg Rose, who is overseeing the project for Otay-Tijuana Venture LLC.

The investors conducted a market study that projects that by 2012, when they hope to complete construction of the facility, about 2 million passengers — half of the total who’ll use the airport — would be crossing the border.

That’s a drop in the bucket compared to the 65 million crossings from Mexico to California in 2009, the latest government statistics available. Nonetheless, backers of the cross-border project said the numbers illustrate a booming economic zone where people cross the border daily to do business.

Over the years, authorities worry that bottlenecks at the crossings are stifling growth. At the San Ysidro port of entry, the nation’s busiest border crossing that’s a few miles from the airport, waiting time to enter California can last as long as two hours. A study by the San Diego Association of Governments found in 2007 that border crossing delays cost about $3 billion in economic activity for the border region.

“The border is an opportunity and an inconvenience,” said Cindy Gompper Graves, executive director of the South County Economic Development Council, a nonprofit that has been promoting better use of the Tijuana airport. “It offers unique opportunities for companies doing business in two different countries with just a short drive. It’s an inconvenience because there is a secured border that you have to wade across.”

She said the cross-border facility would treat the San Diego-Tijuana region as one economic entity and help facilitate business developments on both sides of the fence.

The idea for a bi-national airport began decades ago as local officials struggled to find a solution to overcrowded conditions at San Diego International Airport, a single-runway facility bounded by a harbor, hillside neighborhoods and the downtown area. The physical constraints, along with a strict departure curfew, have limited long-distance flights, particularly to Asia. As a result, many San Diego County residents drive or take the 40-minute, 120-mile flight to Los Angeles International Airport to connect to international flights.

Through the years, ideas to build airports offshore in the Pacific or to convert a military base into a commercial airport never took off. The proposal for TwinPorts, which called for building an airport in Otay Mesa that would share the runway and air traffic control tower with Tijuana’s airport, failed because of concerns over security, noise, traffic and pollution.

Recognizing the need to address future air travel demand, the San Diego Regional Airport Authority is evaluating several scenarios. The authority recently published a report that projects that from now until 2030, the number of plane boardings in Southern California airports will jump from 48 to 80 million passengers. The report estimates that Tijuana’s airport will see the largest percentage increase of passenger boardings from 1.6 to 5.6 million.

The investors, meanwhile, see an opportunity to pull international travelers from LAX to the Tijuana airport, which offers low-cost flights to Mexican destinations as well as Aeromexico flights to Shanghai and Tokyo.

Aeromexico, along with three low-cost Mexican carriers, offer daily flights to at least six Mexican destinations from the Tijuana airport.

Flores said his family could save a lot of hassle by flying to Mexico from LAX, but tickets from the region’s largest airport to Guadalajara could cost twice as much.

“We fly two, three times a year, so that adds up,” he said, adding that a one-way ticket from Tijuana to Guadalajara only cost them $175.

An aviation consultant said the project’s success will depend on the fee for crossing the bridge, which the investors said has not been determined. “They can’t charge an outrageous amount for crossing the bridge,” Jack Keady said. “Otherwise the airfares out of Tijuana might not be that much lower than San Diego.”

To stay competitive, the San Diego airport is undergoing a $1 billion makeover to add terminal gates, roadways and lobby space. Meanwhile Rodriguez airport is undergoing a $30 million renovation to expand and modernize its check-in, baggage and terminal areas, with construction expected to wrap up by the end of the year, said airport director Guillermo Villalba Moralez.

Moralez said airport operators decided to upgrade the airport before the cross-border project came along, but they welcomed the potential for more passengers if the bridge gets built. Last August, the U.S. State Department granted a presidential permit to build the bridge after finding that it would not cause any significant environmental impact. The project must receive a few more approvals by U.S. and Mexican authorities before construction can begin.

In the meantime, the CBP said it was cooperating with the private developers, but it declined to comment further because the project was still in the planning stages. To ensure security, current plans call for dividing the bridge into two corridors to separate northbound and southbound passengers.

A San Diego County man who created the Website said those features would help reassure Americans who don’t feel comfortable crossing the border to get on a plane.

Bill Livingston of Carlsbad said the experience could be intimidating for first-timers, so the traveling salesman posted a video providing step-by-step instruction for crossing the border. It has been viewed more than 17,500 times.

“Southern Californians should take advantage of the hospitality and competitive airline prices offered by our friends right across the border,” Livingston said. “I find the airport to be very flier friendly. It might as well be San Diego’s other airport.”

Border residents oppose calls for deployment of the National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border

San Diego organizations join a borderwide network

Ricardo Favela
Strategic Communications Coordinator

San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium
(760) 468-4519

Louie Gilot
Policy Director, Border Network for Human Rights
2115 N. Piedras, El Paso, TX 79930
(915) 274-0541

May 26, 2010 — Organizations representing border communities from San Diego to Brownsville have written a letter to the Obama Administration and federal legislators strongly opposing the decision to send the National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border. The organizations believe the deployment is ill-conceived and motivated by electoral politics rather than focused on the needs of border communities.

“While DC politicians like to paint the border as a war zone, the reality is that it is one of the safest areas of the country. Crime is down. Even immigration flows are down. The only emergency here is a political one,” said Pedro Rios, with the American Friends Service Committee in San Diego, one of the signatories to the letter.

However, the militarization of the border is not without consequences for the communities who live there. Economies are choked by inefficient border crossings, civil rights are pushed aside, and quality of life is seriously diminished. Worse, community safety is being sacrificed by those who believe that soldiers trained for war belong near family neighborhoods or should be involved in enforcing civilian laws. We cannot forget that in 1997, U.S. Marines sent to secure the border, shot and killed a teenage U.S. citizen who was peacefully herding goats.

“We are frustrated and disappointed by the Obama Administration because this strategy is a recipe for disaster. This militarization will further alienate border communities and jeopardize the success of border security goals and the fight against real criminal threats,” said Fernando Garcia, Executive Director for the Border Network for Human Rights in El Paso, Texas, who also signed the letter.

It is time to rethink our border policy. Increasing the quantity of armed agents and soldiers on our southern border does not enhance our national security, but in fact undermines it by misallocating resources. Humane border policies should emphasize quality law enforcement resources on real threats in the region, while protecting the rights and well-being of border residents.

Read the full letter which follows the media advisory.

The organizations who signed the letter are: American Friends Service Committee (CA); San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium (CA); San Diego Foundation for Change (CA); Border Action Network (AZ); First Christian Church of Tucson (AZ); ACLU Regional Center for Border Rights (NM); Border Network for Human Rights (TX); Immigrant Justice Alliance (TX); Freedom Ambassadors (TX); U.S.-Mexico Border and Immigration Task Force; Casa de Proyecto Libertad (TX); and Project Puente (TX).


To: President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

To: Members of the U.S. Congress
Washington, DC

Border residents oppose calls for deployment of the National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border

Border communities who had hoped for a rational and accountable border policy from the Obama Administration are deeply disappointed at the news of the authorization to deploy National Guard troops to the border. We are also deeply disappointed by calls from Congress to deploy as many as 6,000 National Guard troops to the border.

Proposals to deploy the National Guard are ill-conceived and motivated by electoral politics rather than border realities. In the course of history, presidents have rarely called up the National Guard. Deployment of these forces has almost always been limited to emergency situations and for good reason. The creation of a national police force is anathema to our fundamental values and to the protection of individual liberties.

As men and women living in the border region, which includes metropolitan areas as well as small towns, we have tried time and again to share our concerns about the militarization of the region with members of the Administration and members of Congress. But it seems we are not being heard and the policies of this Administration, far from being the change that we were promised, mirror the policies of the prior Administration and may even be worse with respect to border enforcement.

To be clear, there is no emergency at the border that would warrant the deployment of the National Guard. Immigration flows are down and border cities are among the safest in the country. Violent crime is rare and when it does happen, as in the case of the Arizona rancher who was recently killed, the perpetrator is more likely to be a citizen than an immigrant. The only “emergency” is the political emergency of upcoming elections.

As residents of the border region, we refuse to allow our communities and our quality of life to be sacrificed in a political game played far away from this region by people with little appreciation for the vibrancy of the region and who are motivated by politics rather than actual border needs. We consider the deployment of the National Guard an affront to border communities and oppose the militarization of our region based on the following:

• The militarization of our border has already reached an extreme level and brought with it negative consequences for those who live there. Our economies are choked by inefficient border crossings, our civil rights are pushed aside, and our quality of life is seriously diminished. Worse, our safety is being sacrificed by those who believe that soldiers trained for war belong near family neighborhoods or should be involved in supporting domestic law enforcement. Let’s not forget that in 1997, U.S. Marines sent to help secure the border, mistakenly shot and killed a teenage U.S. citizen who was peacefully herding goats.

• Militarization is a misguided and unnecessary response that is not based in reality or in the opinions of President Obama’s own border experts. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has said repeatedly that her Border Patrol agents have operational control of the border. Crime statistics in border cities and counties show that crime is both low and decreasing. Yet, we are being told once again that we must secure the border, just three years after we built a border wall, added thousands of new Border Patrol agents and deployed virtual enforcement technology.

• Militarization costs us all. Continuing to throw money, resources and military responses at the border is not fiscally responsible, efficient, or humane. The ever mounting costs of militarizing the border are costs borne by taxpayers who can ill afford ineffective and ill-conceived political responses.

• Recourse to the military as a policy option for civilian law enforcement is a disturbing precedent. Forces trained for combat, should not be used for enforcing civil laws. As a matter of fundamental U.S. political values, the military should be withdrawn from all normal law enforcement activities, even in supporting roles.
It is time to rethink our border policy. Increasing the quantity of armed agents and soldiers on our southern border does not enhance our national security, but in fact undermines it by misallocating resources. Humane border policies should emphasize quality law enforcement, and the effective focus of resources on real threats in the region, while ensuring that border communities are consulted on their specific needs, and that the rights and well-being of border residents are protected and upheld. Toward this end, we need the following:

• Consultation with local border communities on a regular basis about border enforcement; decisions about the border should not be made in a vacuum in D.C.

• More accountability and oversight of immigration enforcement officers, who have become the largest law enforcement presence in the border region.

• A standardized complaint process that aggregates complaints the length of the border should be implemented to better understand potential abuse of power and civil and human rights violations. Enforcement agencies should publicize this data and then use appropriate performance measures to correct gaps in current or ongoing training.

• Increased funding for ports of entry to facilitate the flow of legitimate goods and people authorized to work, visit or contribute to the nation’s economy.

• Compliance with environmental protection laws without exceptions for the border; we deserve the same protections as the rest of the country.

• Compliance with national and international civil and human rights protections, and creation of humane detention and short-term custody standards at the border.

• A zero-migrant-death standard that is incorporated into enforcement policies and practices and addresses the mounting death toll—over 5,000—of migrants who lose their lives as a result of inhumane enforcement strategies.

• Comprehensive immigration reform that moves beyond enforcement and focuses on fixing the interconnected parts of our broken immigration system.

• Economic development for Mexico, our second largest trading partner and primary source of immigration; a stronger Mexican economy would benefit both countries economically and ease migration pressures.

The federal government is as responsible for protecting the lives and well being of border residents as it is of protecting residents of the interior of the United States. Unfortunately, border residents have borne the burden of national security under the current hard-line strategy, but can do so no more. We oppose the deployment of the National Guard to the border as a misguided political response, and we urge our national leaders to pursue real solutions to border enforcement that take into account the needs of the border region.

American Friends Service Committee (CA)
San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium (CA)
San Diego Foundation for Change (CA)
Border Action Network (AZ)
First Christian Church of Tucson (AZ)
ACLU Regional Center for Border Rights (NM)
Border Network for Human Rights (TX)
Immigrant Justice Alliance (TX)
Freedom Ambassadors (TX)
Casa de Proyecto Libertad (TX)
Project Puente (TX)

>The 800 Mile Wall: film challenges the deadly politics of border security

>Screening Dec 3, 2009 at Joe & Vi Jacobs Center, 404 Euclid Ave

by Jill Holslin

San Diego, CA- So far this year, 206 migrants have died in the harsh deserts of Arizona trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the humanitarian organization No More Deaths. Since Operation Gatekeeper was instituted in 1994, over 5600 innocent men, women and children have died in the attempt to migrate from Mexico to the U.S. through our borderlands, driven from their homes by the economic collapse in Mexico caused by NAFTA, and drawn here by a once-robust U.S. economy and the concentration of capital and jobs on both sides of the border.

A new film by John Carlos Frey, The 800 Mile Wall: The Deadly Reality of Border Security, puts this brutal and tragic situation in the context of U.S. border policies beginning in the early 1990s during the Clinton administration. In 1995, a new border security policy was initiated under then Attorney General Janet Reno and “border czar” Alan Bersin. (Bersin had just moved to San Diego in 1992 with his wife Lisa Foster, and in short order accepted an appointment as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California, then the position of “border czar”). The policy of “prevention through deterrence,” the brainchild of Alan Bersin, was based on a cruel logic of preventing Mexican immigration to the U.S. by upping the ante: border enforcement manpower, technology and border wall infrastructure was concentrated in four short segments in San Diego, El Paso, Central Arizona and south Texas where 70-80 percent of migrant border crossing was taking place. With these four regions secured, it was argued that the harsh terrain of impassable mountains and scorching deserts would prove an effective deterrent to further migration.

This assumption proved to be deadly, and dead wrong. While border enforcement expenditures quadrupled in the period from 1993 to 2009, migration flows did not stop; they merely shifted geographically into very same dangerous terrain that was believed to act as a deterrent. And thousands of people have died as a result. Evidence has shown that costly border walls, massive government spending on surveillance technologies like Boeing’s failed “virtual fence,” and a tripling of border patrol manpower has been met by a robust growth in the number of undocumented workers living the U.S. during this period. Only in the past two years, with the economy of the U.S. in free fall, have we seen a decrease in the numbers of workers crossing into the U.S. for jobs.

Frey’s film documents the effects of this policy, telling the story with the compassion and commitment of an insider. Born in Tijuana and raised in south San Diego, Frey brings a keen understanding and the spirit of advocacy to his work.

Join us for a screening of The 800 Mile Wall: The Deadly Reality of Border Security, and a panel discussion with the director, joined by Pedro Rios of AFSC and Kevin Keenan of the ACLU.

DATE: Thursday, Dec 3, 2009 beginning 6 PM
LOCATION: Joe and Vi Jacobs Center, Celebration Hall, 404 Euclid Ave, San Diego, CA 92114.
ADMISSION: Free. Suggested donation- one gallon bottle of water.
FOR MORE INFO: (619) 233-4114

And see also Matt Potter’s new article in the San Diego Reader Obama Taps Alan Bersin to Oversee the Border

BORDER FENCE: Smuggler’s Gulch project a ‘disaster’ for estuary, critics say

Originally published 15 January 2009

by April Reese, E&E Western reporter


This article is part of an occasional series on the environmental impacts of the new border fence being constructed along the U.S.-Mexico border.

IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif. — Newly filled with 1.3 million cubic yards of hard-packed dirt, Smuggler’s Gulch, long a conduit for illegal immigration and drug trafficking, may need a new name.

Once a haven for traders in contraband of all kinds — first, Prohibition-era bootleggers; later, drug smugglers and immigrant-ferrying “coyotes” — the gulch now echoes with the sounds of earth-moving bulldozers, dump trucks and Border Patrol jeeps.

Over the next few months, contractors will finish building a 15-foot-high steel mesh fence along the spine of the new berm and another, smaller earthen bridge across Goat Canyon, just to the west. Dirt roads will run along either side, and in most places, the primary barrier will be reinforced with a 10-foot-high chain-link fence on the north side. The new fencing joins a decades-old corrugated metal vehicle barrier a few hundred yards to the south; together, the three fences will create a three-tiered barrier between the United States and Mexico.

From below, the massive berm now bridging the mesas on either side of the 300-foot-deep gulch is an intimidating sight: massive, impenetrable.

That is exactly what Customs and Border Protection and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, were aiming for.

“That old fence was never meant to keep people out,” said CBP’s Jerry Conlin, looking down on the rusty vehicle barrier from the edge of the new berm, where the next section of new fence will soon be erected. “It was never meant to provide the sort of security that our country needs now.”

Until now, Border Patrol agents have had to pursue suspected illegal border crossers down treacherous switchback dirt roads that are cut into the sides of the canyons. Now, with the berms bridging two canyons, agents will be able to drive straight across, providing much quicker response times and a much safer route, Conlin said.

But while the berm — as high as some of the West’s concrete dams — and the fence it will support may stem the flow of illegal immigrants and drug smugglers, it is expected to increase the flow of sediment into the Tijuana River estuary, habitat for several threatened and endangered species and the target of a multi-decade restoration effort. Like the other drainages in the border highlands, as the stretch of rugged terrain along the last few miles of the U.S. border with Mexico is called, Smuggler’s Gulch and Goat Canyon funnel streams from Mexico northward into the United States, into the river and its estuary.

Part of a larger, $127 million plan to construct 14 miles of new barrier spanning the westernmost part of the San Diego sector, the Smuggler’s Gulch project was delayed by legal challenges and regulatory hurdles. In the end, CBP was able to undertake the project without adhering to any state or federal environmental laws due to waiver provisions in both a 1996 law pertaining just to the Smuggler’s Gulch area and the REAL ID Act of 2005, which applied to other areas, as well (Land Letter, Sept. 22, 2005).

‘A wall of shame’

Environmental groups, state regulatory agencies and managers of the 2,800-acre Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve have warned DHS and CBP that the project would cause extensive erosion and send tons of dirt downstream, choking the estuary and undermining decades of work restoring ecologically important wetlands. The estuary encompasses a national wildlife refuge and state parklands and is home to a number of endangered bird species, including the light-footed clapper rail, the California least tern, the least Bell’s vireo and the American peregrine falcon.

“Frankly, from our perspective, this project was just a disaster,” said Peter Douglas, executive director of the California Coastal Commission, which regulates development in the coastal zone. “Not only is it a wall of shame, but to override the protections after the state spent tens of millions of dollars to restore the estuary and to just come in and blast the place … it’s just shameful.”

The Tijuana Estuary Tidal Restoration Program, which calls for restoring 520 acres of inter-tidal wetlands, is one of the largest wetland restoration projects in the country.

Even though the project is proceeding under the waiver, the California Division of Water Quality is pressing CBP to keep environmental damage in check. In a letter to CBP and the Army Corps of Engineers written after a tour of the area in the fall, the agency warned that poor road design and planning would harm the estuary.

“This project will have significant adverse impacts, especially permanent loss of wetlands and riparian habitats,” wrote Darrin Polhemus, the division’s deputy director.

“Most road segments observed exhibited poor grading practices and will likely erode if normal rainfall occurs,” Polhemus added. “This will create environmental costs in the form of lost hydrologic function in the watershed and sediment deliveries to the estuary below. It will also create costs in the form of expensive remedial maintenance and will create hazards for the agents using those roads.”

CBP is crafting a response to the letter. The agency has said it is building retaining walls, culverts and other erosion-control infrastructure to help protect the estuary. Some of those measures were on display during a recent tour of the project site, although some areas appeared to lack erosion controls.

On a warm afternoon this week, Jim Peugh, conservation chairman of the San Diego chapter of the Audubon Society, stood a few feet from a new section of the fence just east of Smuggler’s Gulch and pointed to a rivulet crossing a section of new road. Bigger, more damaging gullies will cut through the project area as San Diego County’s winter rains continue, he said.

Jason Price, project leader for the Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineering and Construction Support Office, which is helping to coordinate construction of the fence, said the company contracted to do the work is following a stormwater pollution prevention plan and is to repair any areas damaged by heavy rains. After the project is completed, responsibility for erosion control will be handed over to CBP when it assumes operation and maintenance duties, he added.

In his letter, Polhemus of the California Division of Water Quality told CBP and the corps that mitigation and long-term monitoring will be needed to help offset the damage to the estuary.

Along the slopes rising from the roadcuts in the mesas on either side of the gulch, fiber rolls have been put in place to help reduce erosion, and in some areas, green seedlings can be seen sprouting in the dirt between the erosion barriers. Those plants — the native rayless gumplant, according to Price — replace the laurel sumac and black sage that once grew on the site.

“In the Smuggler’s area, it’s been decided not to have the high vegetation that would obstruct our visibility,” Conlin explained.

Need for project questioned

Peugh and other critics have called for a project with a smaller disturbance footprint that would rely more on increased patrols and more underground sensors and remote cameras.

“They didn’t need to have a triple fence, they needed to have a real fence,” Peugh said. “There were areas where the existing fence has fallen down because of erosion. And people would use pieces of fallen fence to get over the standing fence.”

But Conlin said CBP had already gone as far as it could with manpower and technology under Operation Gatekeeper in the 1990s. What was missing was a more efficient route for both the fence and the patrol roads, he said.

“The terrain just doesn’t allow for the type of manpower that would be needed, to cover areas with difficult terrain, with high brush, with low to zero visibility,” Conlin said, slowly driving a white government-issue Suburban toward the saddle of the Smuggler’s Gulch berm as construction workers in orange safety vests worked on a new section of steel fence in the distance. “This whole project is about the right combination of personnel, technology and infrastructure.”

When the project is done, Border Patrol agents will have a more or less straight throughway paralleling the fence from the San Ysidro Point of Entry east of Smuggler’s Gulch to the shoreline 5 miles away.

“Raising Smuggler’s Gulch will allow us to respond to any threats to the area — and rescues in the area — much better than before,” Conlin said.

In the 1980s, the area of the border south of Imperial Beach, including Smuggler’s Gulch, was one of the busiest — and most dangerous — sections along the border. In the early 1990s, about half a million people crossed into the United States from Mexico illegally in the San Diego sector, more than anywhere else on the entire border.

After a crackdown by the Border Patrol during the mid-1990s under President Bill Clinton’s “Operation Gatekeeper” initiative, which doubled the number of Border Patrol agents and provided more cameras and sensors, apprehensions fell by more than three-quarters, dropping from 480,000 in fiscal 1996 to 100,000 in fiscal 2002.

Since then, apprehensions have risen slightly, to about 152,000 in fiscal 2007 and about 162,000 last year. “It’s been going up little by little since 2002,” Conlin said.

A project years in the making

The mandate to construct 14 miles of new fencing in the San Diego sector dates back to 1996, predating the Secure Fence Act by a decade. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, authored in part by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R) of San Diego, called for the U.S. attorney general to “provide for the construction along the 14 miles of the international land border of the United States, starting at the Pacific Ocean and extending eastward, of second and third fences, in addition to the existing reinforced fence, and for roads between the fences.”

The law’s authorization to waive the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act to allow for “expeditious construction” set the stage for the waiver authority granted to the DHS secretary in the REAL ID Act in 2005, which expanded the authority to apply to all state and federal laws. Under the REAL ID Act, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff waived a host of laws to complete various portions of the fence, including the Coastal Zone Management Act, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, the Clean Air Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Without the waivers, it seems unlikely that the Smuggler’s Gulch project would have been constructed in its current design. In 2004, environmental groups sued to stop the project, and the same year, the California Coastal Commission concluded that Customs and Border Protection had not demonstrated that the project was consistent with the California Coastal Management Program, a state program approved under the federal Coastal Zone Management Act. It warned that the new fence project would harm the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research and Reserve, further imperil state and federally listed species and compromise lands in the border highlands set aside for protection under San Diego’s Multiple Species Conservation Program.

Peter Douglas, executive director of the California Coastal Commission, said there is little the state can do to get CBP to repair the damage. Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D), nominated to be the new Department of Homeland Security chief under President-elect Barack Obama, has criticized the border fence, offering hope to some critics that the new administration will attempt to repair some of the environmental damage from the fence, or even reshape parts of it. But Douglas is doubtful.

“I think the damage is done,” Douglas said. “I don’t know how you go back and undo it.”

The ongoing construction project at Smuggler’s Gulch, expected to be finished in May, is one of a handful of border fence projects that have extended beyond Chertoff’s deadline of Dec. 31. While Chertoff said in August that the agency was on track to complete its goal of 370 miles of pedestrian fencing and 300 miles of vehicle barriers by the end of the year, only 563 total miles have been built, according to Lloyd Easterling, a spokesman for CBP in Washington. But Easterling, who attributes the delays to the increased price of fuels and steel, said he expects the administration will hit the 670-mile mark before Bush leaves office next week.

“We’re still committed to the 670-mile goal,” Easterling said, adding that contracts have been secured for all the remaining projects.

April Reese is based in Santa Fe, N.M.

About E&E Publishing: Environment & Energy Publishing (E&E) is the leading source for comprehensive, daily coverage of environmental and energy policy and markets. E&E’s four daily on-line publications are considered “must-reads” by people who track and influence energy, environmental and climate policy.

>Mexico, U.S., Canada to protect wilderness across borders

>from NATGEO Newswatch
7 November 2009


Merida, Mexico | Canada, Mexico, and the United States have become the first countries to agree formally to cooperate on wilderness conservation measures across a continent, Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón announced.

Calderón made the announcement of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Cooperation for Wilderness Conservation between the three countries during his speech at the opening ceremony of the 9th World Wilderness Congress (WILD9), in Merida, Mexico last night.

“This Agreement will facilitate the sharing of successful experiences, monitoring, and training of human resources, as well as the financing of projects that will protect and recover wild areas,” President Calderón said.

The MOU provisions address ecosystems, migratory wildlife, and natural resources that do not start and end with geographical boundaries, the organizers of the WILD9 conference reported in a statement. “This MOU also encourages cooperative efforts to conduct and share scientific research.”

Signed in the three national languages of English, Spanish and French, the agreement is cross-cultural, and respects native approaches to conserving wild nature, accommodation for indigenous customs, priorities for species survival, and national environmental policy, the statement added.

Seven agencies responsible for wilderness management signed the MOU: the Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources through the National Commission on Protected Areas (CONANP) of the United Mexican States; the Parks Canada agency of the Government of Canada; the National Park Service, Fish & Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management of the U.S. Department of Interior, and the Forest Service and Office of Ecosystem Services and Markets of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The MOU process was facilitated by the WILD9 executive committee and is the result of 18 months of work by the North American Governmental Advisory Committee chaired by Ernesto Enkerlin-Hoeflich, National Commissioner, CONANP, in Mexico.

“Mexican legislation currently allows for incorporating the concept of wilderness in our protected area operations and private lands certification,” Enkerlin-Hoeflich said. “We are close to having it formally incorporated into environmental law. This MOU builds on our tradition of trilateral cooperation. It will greatly benefit Mexico as it shares and learns from the Canadian and U.S. experiences such that wilderness conservation, while respecting each country’s institutions and regulations, works seamlessly in North America.

The National Geographic Society is a sponsor of WILD9.

>POSTPONED: Encuentro at the Border @ the CENTRO Cultural de la Raza



@ the CENTRO Cultural de la Raza
2004 Park Blvd SD 92104

Friends of Friendship Park present:
Encuentro at the Border

A night of photos and discussion of the border wall in San Diego, with music, dance, drinks

Mural painting by local artist Crol of

7:00 PM Slide show of the border wall in San Diego County, by Jill Holslin
Jill Holslin (along with Dan Watman and many others) has been documenting the construction of the border wall in San Diego County for over a year. She will present a slide presentation with photos of the newly constructed wall at Friendship Park, Smuggler’s Gulch, Otay Mountain Wilderness.

8:00 PM Panel discussion: Confronting the Culture of Violence
Pedro Rios, American Friends Service Committee
Pedro will discuss the roots of the border patrol’s militarization of the border and its consequences: ICE raids, detentions, the growing industry of border violence
Daniel Watman, Director of Border encuentro
Dan will discuss his work with Border encuentro, a group dedicated to fostering friendship and cooperation through social events at the border.
Jill Holslin, Friends of Friendship Park
Jill will recount the story of Friendship Park, and our struggle to keep it open to the public.

9:00 PM Music, Dance, Poetry Slam

While there enjoy TransborderArt:

FROM TIJUANA: Alvaro Blancarte, SPEL, Roberto Rosiquez, Luis Ituarte, Elba Rhoads, Luis Garzón, Libre, Chente; FROM US SIDE: Armando de la Torre, Maria Teresa Fernandez, Ricardo Islas, Guillermo Acevedo, Pablo Aztlan, Crol, Fernando Vossa, Rogelio Casas, David Smith, Eloy Torres, Christopher Oleata, WERC, Victor Ochoa, Geraldine, Mario Torero; FROM PERU: Aurelio de la Guerra, Victor Delfin; FROM MEXICALI: Juan Hernandez, Lourdes Murillo, Pablo Castañeda, Guillermo Jauregui , Fernando Corona

The exhibit runs for six weeks, during which, there will be a series of events that reflects the theme and players:


Sat & Sun Aug 8 & 9 ‘Fiesta del Sol’ on historic Logan Avenue, BarrioLogan’s Murals Intervention (Centro’s PublicArt Outreach into the barrios) featuring, direct from Cusco, Peru, Aurelio d la Guerra, painter at LaBodega (Sampson and Logan Ave.)
Sat Aug 22 Border Angels, CENTRO Cultural de la Raza Installation and manifestation/performance

The event is FREE but it is a fundraiser and we will take donations.

For more information, please contact
Jill holslin 619-804-8030

mario torero 858-774-1286