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Border Report: Women Take Charge in Baja

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and Tijuana Mayor Montserrat Caballero
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and Tijuana Mayor Montserrat Caballero / Photo courtesy of Todd Gloria

Montserrat Caballero, the first woman to be elected mayor of Tijuana, began her historic tenure Thursday.

Caballero has called for increased collaboration [1]between Baja California and its northern counterpart. It’s something she shares with Marina del Pilar Ávila, who will become Baja California’s first female governor when she begins a six-year term in November.

Both Caballero and Ávila have toured San Diego. They each met with Mayor Todd Gloria and other local officials. Ávila even threw the first pitch at a recent Padres game, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

The issues they aim to tackle include cross-border sewage, expanding economic opportunities in the region, addressing the migrant crisis and lowering Tijuana’s crime rate.

On paper, this appears to be a hopeful time for the region. A new mayor and governor want to build on the existing relationships with their counterparts in San Diego and Sacramento – a sentiment shared with elected officials north of the border.

And there are legitimate reasons behind the optimism.

Washington D.C. has allocated hundreds of millions toward infrastructure projects to address environmental issues, a second port of entry in Otay Mesa is scheduled to be completed by 2024, and both Caballero and Ávila are said to have a strong relationship with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

But take the optimism with a grain of salt.

Despite new leadership in the south and a strong desire for binational collaboration in the north, the borderlands remain governed by federal governments in Mexico City and Washington D.C. that have a less-than-stellar track record of listening to local leadership.

A Brief Update on CBP’s Tracking of Journalists, Lawyers and Humanitarian Workers

The federal agency tasked with investigating Customs and Border Protection’s tracking of American lawyers, activists and journalists in 2019 finally published its report [2] on the incident, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. [3]

NBC 7 San Diego broke the story [4] of how CBP was tracking people they thought had information about migrant caravans in Tijuana. Under Operation Secure Line — yes, that was the actual name — CBP agents created a secret database of people tied to the migrant caravan and even placed alerts on some of their passports. Those alerts meant people were subject to secondary inspection, interrogations and phone searches while crossing back into the United States.

The stated reason for Operation Secure Line was to ensure public safety and national security – presumably because the richest country in the world and a law enforcement agency with a budget of $49 billion [5] felt threatened by the gathering of thousands of poor migrants in Tijuana.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General’s report found no evidence that CBP officials targeted Americans specifically to harass or retaliate against them. The report mentions that the probe encountered conflicting narratives from CBP agents, deleted records and at least one instance of someone lying to justify enforcement action.

Additionally, the report states CBP officials did not remove the alerts in a prompt manner, which resulted in CBP subjecting individuals to repeated and unnecessary secondary inspections. Also, CBP officials asked their Mexican counterparts to deny entry to “caravan associates,” including 14 U.S. citizens. “CBP had no genuine basis for asking Mexico to deny entry to these U.S. citizens,” the report states.

The report does not mention any disciplinary action for the managers who oversaw Operation Secure Line or the agents who implemented it on the ground. The report lists six recommendations that mostly center around updating internal policies and agent training.

Recommended Reading

Editor’s Note: This is Gustavo Solis’ last Border Report. We have a new writer lined up, we think you’ll be pleased to see… stay tuned. Thank you so much to Solis.