Take a walk on the wild side

San Diego is giving new meaning to the idea of cross-border cooperation.  After 20 years of discussion and planning, the airport in SD is now constructing a 525 foot pedestrian bridge to the Tijuana airport, allowing ticketed passengers to pay a small fee and clear customs directly in the airport rather than the usual route of hiring a taxi to take you to the usual border crossing (note: taxi drivers are not happy with this project).

The idea first came about when the South County Economic Development Council surveyed the Tijuana airport parking lot and found that many US citizens were using the Tijuana airport as a cross-border commuter lot.  The council originally proposed a terminal where planes could taxi on both sides of the border, but that apparently was too problematic. The pedestrian bridge project is being funded by private investors from both the US and Mexico, although they still need to figure out how to cover costs like paying for customs agents.

The benefits to Mexico are debatable.  The mayor is actually on record saying that travelers can now bypass Tijuana completely and go direct to San Diego (it seems the opposite argument would also be true, but perhaps that’s not what most travelers are looking for).

The director of the Tijuana airport, Guillermo Villalba, disagrees, arguing that there are numerous benefits to the plan, namely that it will send “a message that the border region is prosperous and safe, will attract more business to the border region, will put Tijuana on the world map, attracting investment, tourism and economic development that will benefit not only Tijuana but the state and the entire border region.”  

I’m not sure I agree with the director about the message this project is sending with regards to TJ, but I do agree that it will give the city a lot of publicity given the uniqueness of the plan.  It will be interesting to see how well the bridge works and what kind of effects it will have on both cities.

US concerns about Mexican migration & security

Alfredo Corchado has a good article in the Dallas Morning News about newly declassified US government documents about the security and migration situation in Mexico.  Here are a couple of the most interesting tidbits:

“US officials expressed concern that the Calderón government’s actions were leading to “unintended consequences,” noting that the capture or killing of several top cartel leaders “has allowed less experienced and undisciplined personnel to fill the leadership vacuum, contributing to the spike of drug-related murders.”

The documents provide some new information and raise troubling questions of why more was not done then by either government to take preemptive action that might have prevented the killing of vulnerable migrants, whose only fault was traveling through a perilous region in hopes for a better life in the U.S. In fact, far from trying to help migrants, authorities, especially immigration officials, tried to cover up the extent of the carnage.”

Mexico & Migration

The New York Times had an article on Sunday called “For Migrants, New Land of Opportunity Is Mexico.”  It had the following interesting points about migration and Mexico:

“The shift with Mexico’s northern neighbor is especially stark. Americans now make up more than three-quarters of Mexico’s roughly one million documented foreigners, up from around two-thirds in 2000, leading to a historic milestone: more Americans have been added to the population of Mexico over the past few years than Mexicans have been added to the population of the United States, according to government data in both nations.

Mexican migration to the United States has reached an equilibrium, with about as many Mexicans moving north from 2005 to 2010 as those returning south. The number of Americans legally living and working in Mexico grew to more than 70,000 in 2012 from 60,000 in 2009, a number that does not include many students and retirees, those on tourist visas or the roughly 350,000 American children who have arrived since 2005 with their Mexican parents.”

I didn’t find the second half of the article very convincing, however, since it relies heavily on anecdotal evidence and doesn’t broach the topics of drugs, violence, or the fact that the Mexican economy is tanking in 2013.  Trading economics has a nice figure (click for a better view) of Mexican GDP growth in the last 5 years.  So far Mexico has seen essentially zero GDP growth in 2013, causing the government and IFIs to drastically reduce forecasts.  If economic growth continues to stagnate, I predict a resurgence of migration north.

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A Powerful Slideshow on the US-Mexico Border

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The NY Times has put together an amazing slideshow from readers’ personal photos of the US-Mexico border.  There are some really sad ones, like this one, where each cross indicates a life lost in the crossing:

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or others, like the following separating Tijuana and San Diego, which show just how ridiculous the idea of a fence is:

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The whole series is excellent and definitely worth checking out in full.

Migration and the power of art

I just learned of an excellent Mexican sculptor last week named Alejandro Santiago.  Sadly I learned of him and his work because he died of a heart attack at age 49.  He is most famous for the clay sculptures he created to represent all of the migrants who left his town in Mexico for a better life in the US.  Here are a couple photos of his figures:

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The project was called 2501 Migrants and you can find much more of Alejandro’s terrific work by clicking on the link.