A TALE OF TWO CITIES
AUGUST 9, 1996
San Diego and its Mexican neighbor Tijuana have developed a mutually beneficial relationship, one of constant commerce and international commutes. Both cities are thriving as a result. But the Republicans are coming to town, and many fear that the party's anti-immigration hard-liners will create animosity in two cities proud of the swelling traffic across their borders.
Jeffrey Kaye talks to a panel of educators and legislators about some controversial anti-immigration bills in Congress.
California's Proposition 187 sparks a national debate on restricting benefits for illegal aliens and their children. Kwame Holman reports.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Downtown San Diego is located just 15 miles from the Mexican border, a beautiful city with near perfect weather and a spectacular harbor. Home port to the 75 ships of the third fleet, politically San Diego is a conservative Navy town that's long been a Republican stronghold. So when Bob Dole arrives here this weekend, he should feel right at home.
But as preparations for next week's convention continue, there's growing concern among San Diego's civic and business establishment. Democrats and Republicans alike fear that one of the Republican Party's campaign themes could damage San Diego's increasingly important economic and political ties with Tijuana, its sister city to the South.
ANNOUNCER: Did you know there are over 5 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., and that you spend $5 ½ billion a year to support them with welfare, food stamps, and other services? Under President Clinton, spending on illegals has gone up, while wages for the typical American worker have gone down.
CHARLES KRAUSE: No one in San Diego denies that illegal immigration from Mexico is a problem. A new 14-mile stretch of wall built by the Clinton administration now divides San Diego from Tijuana, and there's no question that it's politically popular. But what San Diego's civic and business leaders fear is that Republicans will highlight only the negatives of the U.S.-Mexico relationship. So to counter the rhetoric, a bipartisan delegation of prominent San Diegans flew to Washington recently to present a more positive side of the story.
ALAN BERSIN, U.S. Attorney: There are many Republicans in San Diego who are terribly uncomfortable with the prospect of the convention of being an occasion to bash Mexicans and to concentrate on illegal immigration or to claim that there's been no difference in the border because those of us who live on the border know that it's a border that's night-and-day different from what it was even three years ago.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Despite the continuing inflow of illegal migrants, some 40,000 Americans and Mexicans cross the San Diego-Tijuana border every day legally to work, to shop, to party, and to visit family and friends. As a result, this is now one of the two busiest land-border crossings in the world.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Tell me, why were you in Mexico?
GENTLEMAN: I was visiting my girlfriend.
CHARLES KRAUSE: How many times a week do you go back and forth?
GENTLEMAN: About five or six times a week.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Where do you live?
SECOND GENTLEMAN: Tijuana.
CHARLES KRAUSE: How often do you go back and forth?
SECOND GENTLEMAN: About twice a week.
CHARLES KRAUSE: And why are you going across now?
SECOND GENTLEMAN: Umm, I'm going to buy luggage and some clothes because I'm going on vacation tomorrow.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Some 3,000 trucks also cross the border every day, a sign of the growing economic ties that bind San Diego to Tijuana, as well as Mexico to the United States. For the most part, the trucks cross to service the nearly 500 maquiladora assembly plants that have turned this part of Mexico into a major industrial center. The result is a booming economy in Tijuana, with unemployment now below 1 percent. Jose Pepe Larroque is a partner in Baker and McKinsey, one of the world's largest law firms. Based in Chicago, the firm has offices not only in Tijuana but also 15 miles to the North in downtown San Diego.
JOSE LARROQUE, Attorney: You have very large manufacturing companies here, some of them that, that employ each over 5,000 employees here in the Tijuana area. Now, these companies obviously have their counterpart facility in San Diego to do part of the finishing assembly, to warehouse, and some even have for research and development. There is a massive amount of investment. Hundreds of millions of dollars are invested continuously here in the Tijuana area. And that obviously affects the San Diego area.
CHARLES KRAUSE: It's not unusual for Larroque to jump in his Land Rover several times a week, even several times a day to cross the border for business or pleasure. His only complaint, the time it takes to get into the United States.
CHARLES KRAUSE: How do you feel about the wall that they built and the increased attempt to keep out illegals from the United States?
JOSE LARROQUE: Well, I've always been a firm believer that each country has a right to guard its borders as it, as it deems proper. The only focus or the only issue that I have with the wall and with things like the wall is that they get an impact which--or the negative focus that, that it creates towards illegal immigration. There are forms to deter illegal immigration, and certainly putting focus on it is important but not taking focus away from legal crossings like the one that we're doing right now.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Born and educated in the United States, Larroque is a dual citizen who chooses to live in Mexico. Carlos de Orduna, on the other hand, is a Mexican citizen who works primarily in Tijuana but chooses to live in the United States. Each morning, he leaves his comfortable home in Chula Vista, crosses the border at Oti Mesa, and about 20 minutes later arrives at his office at the Sanyo Refrigerator Plant in Tijuana.
De Orduna is by no means alone. Many of the white collar maquiladora executives live as he does in San Diego, pumping money into the U.S. economy. Meanwhile, their blue collar employees remain in Tijuana. We asked de Orduna why more of them don't try to sneak across illegally into the United States.
CARLOS de ORDUNA, Maquiladora Executive: If you have a job that allows you to live reasonably, decently well, you have the income that allows you to eat and allows you to pay for your wife's and children's food, why you should go to United States? I believe that the maquiladora industry has created kind of a second fence, in many cases more effective than the actual fence.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Case in point, Ruben Diaz, a mid-level executive at the Sanyo Refrigerator Plant, who tried living in San Diego illegally, then decided he'd rather live and work in his own country even if that meant earning less than in the United States.
RUBEN DIAZ, Maquiladora Manager: One of the first things that I noticed when I moved to San Diego was the race issue because over there you're a Mexican, you need to go with the Mexicans, if you are a Vietnamese, you go with the Vietnamese, if you are black, you go with the blacks, so people don't get together in social kind of ways. And here in Mexico, we don't have such kind of differences.
CHARLES KRAUSE: While many middle class Mexicans like Diaz remain in Mexico, many San Diegans are beginning to discover the Pacific Coast near Tijuana. New developments like Real Delmar offer golf, tennis, riding, and other amenities. Walter and Ruth Matranga, both San Diego bankers, said they're pleased with their new condominium. Despite Tijuana's reputation for police corruption and political violence, they say they feel as safe here as they do at home.
RUTH MATRANGA, San Diego Banker: We leave our doors open at nighttime very frequently just to let the breeze blow in, and we feel very, very safe. I'd walk on the streets here at nighttime, where I might not necessarily do that in parts of San Diego even.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Now we're about 15 miles south of the border. How much would it cost to buy a place just like this one 15 miles north of the border?
WALTER MATRANGA, San Diego Banker: This property would probably be five times more expensive, clearly, and with the same amount of benefits that we receive from it--so--and a heck of a lot less people.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Republican Gil Partida of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce says he hopes the national Republican Party will come to understand what local Republicans have come to recognize.
GIL PARTIDA, San Diego Chamber of Commerce: I'll tell you today it's pretty much a politically accepted reality locally that we have to integrate our economies in order to compete successfully in a globalized world. And I think at the end of the day, which will drive our success or failure, is our ability throughout this convention to deliver the other side of the message, and there is a recognition that if you're for an improving or advancing economy, then you're going to be for this type of integration.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Roger Hedgecock is an influential conservative radio talk show host in San Diego and a former mayor. He doesn't think the Republicans should buy into the vision Gil Partida and other members of the local establishment are trying to sell.
ROGER HEDGECOCK, Talk Show Host: I think if we only show the growing cooperation, we will have missed the point, the friction point that we do need to discuss, and, and we do need to resolve between the first world country, the United States, and a growing, emerging country like Mexico over this question of whether we're going to respect each other's laws and what those laws ought to be with respect to people moving back and forth. We're trying to shove this thing under the rug, and we've been doing that for years.
CHARLES KRAUSE: There's no question that parts of Tijuana do look like a third world country--impoverished neighborhoods mixed with the cheap bars and discos that line Avenido Revolucion. But just a few blocks away there's another Tijuana, the new cultural center and shopping areas that symbolize the new wealth and dynamism that characterize Mexico's fastest growing major city.
Three years ago, San Diego recognized Tijuana's importance when the two cities agreed to cooperate on a host of local issues--the environment, for example, a new bi-national sewage treatment plant is under construction at the border. It will treat Tijuana's sewage and allow San Diego to reopen beaches that have been closed for years. It's this kind of cooperation which Susan Golding, San Diego's Republican mayor, says must be encouraged.
MAYOR SUSAN GOLDING, San Diego: We know we have a drug trafficking problem, illegal immigration problem, and it's a severe one, but we also know there are tremendous benefits to looking South and cooperating further with Mexico and Tijuana. I hope that by the time the convention is over many people in this country will understand what this region is about and what San Diego is about and it's a fascinating, interesting place, very different from much of the rest of the country.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Golding says she hopes her fellow delegates will come to the Republican convention with an open mind and discover what San Diegans are discovering, that the potential for economic cooperation with Mexico is enormous, and that there's far more to the border relationship than just keeping illegals from Mexico out of the United States.