In recent weeks, both Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastélum and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer have made public statements on the importance of strong ties between our cities and nations. But neither has taken a strong stance against the actual policies causing the economy and security of both cities to crack and fray. While residents of both cities protest President Donald Trump’s racist, fear-driven executive orders on immigration and his proposed harmful trade policies, our mayors stick to milquetoast talking points.

Commentary - in-story logoAnd while representatives of our large business trade groups organize binational meetings that only reinforce this show of economic cooperation, small business associations like Main Street Alliance of San Diego are left alone in openly standing up to these harmful policies as they build a network of immigrant-friendly storefronts and businesses.

Faulconer and Gastellum won’t straightforwardly discuss the legitimate impacts Trump’s immigration and international trade policies could have on San Diego. I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they have a plan – as the state of our border economy is at significant risk. But in the absence of clear leadership on the issue, San Diegans are left to wonder if it’s just easier for them not to mention the president’s policies.

We know that the economic impact of immigrants in San Diego is tremendous. According to research by the New American Economy, immigrants account for almost $17 billion in spending power, over $6 billion in taxes paid and over 65,000 entrepreneurs.

I own a small business in University Heights. Business owners like me don’t need statistics to know the strength of our binational partnership and how severely Trump’s policies threaten it.

Every day, businesses in San Diego are affected by the fear Trump has created. We are often the eyes and ears of our community and have a finger on the pulse of the neighborhood. Customers who live with the possibility of an arbitrary deportation have fear in their eyes. Many are cashing out their assets and savings in preparation for the worst. More and more local businesses keep “Know Your Rights” pamphlets and information sheets handy so we can feel ready if the worst does happen.

We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

In my restaurant, we’re also worried about the economic impacts of the Trump administration’s trade and border policies – the cost of goods (like avocados imported from Mexico) that could result in removing them from the menu, the possibility of local law enforcement collaborating with federal immigration officials on workplace raids, possible stricter and costlier E-Verify requirements and what it means for staff productivity when most of us live binational lives. What happens at home impacts us at work.

I wish it ended there, but I depend on San Diego remaining a top tourism destination. When our city isn’t seen as one of the finest, the bottom line of businesses like mine get hit hard. In fact, the equation to my bottom-line success is pretty simple: Policies that prioritize the well-being of residents and create a culture of safety drive business my way.

Our livelihoods are binational. Mayors from other major metropolitan areas accept their duty to speak out against federal policies that harm the residents of their city. While San Diego and Tijuana are two of the most closely interdependent cities on our border, our mayors are deciding not to take a strong enough stance. They are failing the families and businesses of San Diego and Tijuana who elected them to stand up for the policies that protect our binational livelihoods.

At the end of the day, my restaurant’s success has been possible through the merging of cultures, the blending of foods and a team from all over the world. I cook to bring people together. Trump will try, but he will not separate us. Businesses are stepping up to the plate to call things out without equivocation – now we ask that our mayors do the same and stand up for our people as clearly as we are.

Osvaldo Blackaller is the owner and chef at Cueva Bar on Adams Avenue. commentary has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.

    This article relates to: Border, Border Crossing, Opinion

    Written by Opinion

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    Jorge Serrano
    Jorge Serrano

    It's unfortunate that the federal governments on both sides of the border show so little regard for our region. The GSA, for example, set their new border complex by ten years by insisting on turning San Ysidro into a giant parking lot while Los Pinos sent a delegate with no experience or training to regulate the flow of tourists by saying "ihre Papiere bitte" in a Mexican accent. 

    Why not, instead, have the arid states on both sides of the line drawn by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo secede from their respective federation in order to form our own sovereign country?

    bgetzel subscriber

    Mayor Faulconer continues to avoid taking stands on almost every issue. In this case, his timidity may be reinforced by his angling toward  the Republican nomination for Governor.

    Miguel Aguirre
    Miguel Aguirre

    Bravo, Osvaldo!  

    Image=Reality...strong bi-national policies must support our communities and begin where our two cities and countries first meet: In the tough and severely neglected cross-border pedestrian environment.  Where else can we begin to take a stand for the cross-border dynamic?  Just look at what we show the whole world that loves to visit our sister cities...

    I've owned and operated several businesses with my dad at the San Ysidro "Pedestrian" port of entry for over 30 years.  We've seen the tourist and business flow dwindle to half what it was in peak 2001, the year of 9-11.  Since then, our mega-region's economy has greatly expanded, including the number of border-crossings, yet many small businesses and daily border-crossers are regulated, overwhelmed and litigated to death by parochial interests and a true lack of cultural sensitivity.

    I applaud your stance and encourage your outreach for a better way.  In spite of today's misguided rhetoric, I believe there is a new era on the horizon...and it will begin where our two great border cities first meet!  Please stay tuned, brother.