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.
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.
And 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.
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 a local bar in San Diego. Commentary has been edited for style and clarity.