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Maya Srikrishnan's biweekly roundup of stories on the border, immigration and the San Diego-Baja California region (Mondays)
December has been the toughest month of the pandemic yet for both San Diego and Tijuana, and there isn’t much optimism that things will improve any time soon and more in our biweekly roundup of border news.
COVID-19 has been raging on both sides of the border for weeks, and the virus shows no sign of subsiding.
San Diego reported 3,132 new coronavirus infections Sunday. It marked the 27th consecutive day with more than 1,000 cases, City News Service reports. Dr. Wilma Wooten said San Diego County is on pace to report another 600 deaths caused by the virus by the end of January. The number of people hospitalized and in critical care are also far higher than during the summer peak.December has also proven the most difficult month of the pandemic for Baja California, Zeta reports. For four weeks in a row, Radar BC reports, Baja California has seen increases in the number of deaths related to COVID-19. In the week before Christmas, the state’s Secretary of Health registered 1,646 new coronavirus cases and 238 confirmed virus-related deaths. (Note: the official numbers in Mexico are likely significantly undercounted).
Not only are hospitals in the region at ICU capacity, Proceso reports, but many people are dying even before ambulances can arrive. When people do arrive at the hospital, it is often too late, Radar BC reports. Patients are arriving with very low oxygen levels, with hosptials immediately intubating them.
The mayor of Mexicali has closed casinos because of the increase in COVID-19 cases, Radar BC reports, though the pandemic has taken a toll on all state businesses. In 17 months, Zeta finds, 21,493 businesses have closed definitively in Baja California, in part due to a lack of support from the government during the COVID-9 pandemic.
The federal government runs the U.S.-Mexico border, but locals – who cross the border regularly and whose lives are shaped by it– have a different idea of how it should look and function.
I explored several ideas floated by local entrepreneurs, government officials, architects, artists and land use experts over the past few decades that re-imagine the San Diego-Tijuana border. They envision a very different border than the one we have – one that embraces the idea of the region, despite its border, as one community and natural environment.
One person I spoke with imagined that land ports of entry could have amenities like airports. Another suggested we completely re-envision the border line to be aligned with natural boundaries, like its watershed. Then there were tons of ideas about how to make transportation through and to the border more convenient, from a hyperloop that extends from Ensenada to Los Angeles, to a cross-border trolley or bike lanes through the ports of entry.
Since I’ve published the story, several other people and groups have contacted me to share some of their visions, like the Southern Border Communities Coalition’s “New Border Vision,” which provides a framework to govern the border that protects human and civil rights. For example, it describes a world in which border authorities play less of a role dictating who can cross the border, which often leads to the criminalization of some groups, and more of a role identifying people in need of humanitarian assistance and referring them to other organizations or agencies that can provide that help.
I’d love to hear more ideas of what you think should be done with the border and feature some of them in this newsletter next year. If you’ve got an idea for the border, feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com or tweet at me @msrikris. There are no boundaries for these ideas!