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Trump’s threats to close border scare San Diego residents into staying home

The border crossing near San Diego is the country’s busiest land port of entry. More than 100,000 people cross the border daily through San Diego and Tijuana, and the cities exchange more than $4 billion a year. As special correspondent Jean Guerrero of KPBS reports, residents and the economy would face a profound change if President Trump followed through on his threats to close the border.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    About 120 miles west from the stretch of border President Trump visited today is the country's busiest land port of entry. Tens of thousands of people cross the border near San Diego every day for school, work or shopping.

    As Jean Guerrero from PBS station KPBS reports, if the president follows through on threats to close the U.S.-Mexico border, it would have a big impact on local residents and the economy.

  • Jean Guerrero:

    More than 100,000 people cross the border daily through San Diego and Tijuana, and the cities exchange more than $4 billion a year.

    President Trump has floated closing the border to address the unprecedented number of families applying for asylum in the U.S.

  • Donald Trump:

    We're going to have a strong border or we're going to have a closed border.

  • Jean Guerrero:

    President Trump subsequently backed off, giving Mexico a year to solve the crisis, or else.

    Threats to close the border are scaring people here. San Diego's hotels rely on workers from Tijuana. Americans who can't afford San Diego housing live in Tijuana while commuting to work. Wealthier Mexicans send their kids to private school in San Diego. And San Diegans who can't afford health care in the U.S. go to doctors in Tijuana, such as Bertha Herrero, who lives in San Diego, but has a dentist in Tijuana.

  • Bertha Herrero:

    And I came here because it's cheap, or cheaper, in Tijuana than in San Diego.

  • Jean Guerrero:

    Herrero is seeing a doctor at the first Mexican HMO to be licensed as a health care provider by the state of California. SIMNSA offers medical and dental services to Americans, but in Tijuana.

    President Frank Carrillo says dozens of people canceled their appointments this week because Trump's threats to close the border made them afraid they'd get stuck in Mexico if they crossed.

  • Frank Carrillo:

    Just the threats alone, just that in itself is already creating a problem. People don't want to make the trip.

  • Jean Guerrero:

    Carrillo says the HMO employs about 500 physicians, and treats between 1,500 and 2,000 patients every day. He says closing the border would be devastating, not only for his business, but for most of the people he knows.

  • Frank Carrillo:

    We're dividing families by doing this. So, really, nobody wins in this situation. Nobody wins.

  • Jean Guerrero:

    San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer believes in the benefits of cross-border trade.

  • Kevin Faulconer:

    Our relationship with our friends in Tijuana, our relationship with Mexico is a strength of ours.

  • Jean Guerrero:

    Many local residents live as if the region were a single place.

  • Lucila Conde:

    San Diego and Tijuana are really one metropolitan area. Even though there's a border between us that separates us geographically and politically and all this stuff, we are one community.

  • Jean Guerrero:

    Lucila Conde works at a San Diego nonprofit that installs solar panels for low-income families. But she has a house in Tijuana and cares for sick relatives over there.

  • Lucila Conde:

    We have commitments and relationships on both sides. I have a family member who is on dialysis in Mexico, and she requires help and attention.

  • Jean Guerrero:

    Every morning, dozens of new asylum seekers arrive at the port of entry to put their names on a waitlist. It takes weeks to be called to speak to a U.S. customs officer because of the long backlog. Most are from southern Mexico and Central America. Some come from other areas.

    One woman, who's been waiting since last month, is from Cuba.

  • Woman (through translator):

    If they close the border, I don't know what's going to happen to us.

  • Jean Guerrero:

    She asked for anonymity because she fears for her life.

  • Woman (through translator):

    When a human leaves her country, her culture, her habits and roots, it's because she must, because the saddest thing in the world is be a migrant. People humiliate you. They mistreat you.

  • Jean Guerrero:

    Back at the medical practice, Carrillo says that, as much as he fears for his business, he fears for asylum seekers, too.

  • Frank Carrillo:

    It is real. It's not fabricated. We do have a crisis. The crisis is in Central America. These people are fleeing poverty and violence. So the answer to this problem is, go to the root of the problem. The root of the problem is there.

  • Jean Guerrero:

    He says the U.S. should help people in Central America. But President Trump recently announced plans to end all aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador as punishment for failing to stem the tide of migrants.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jean Guerrero at the border.

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