U.S. and Mexico Would Benefit from “Frictionless” Border

A comprehensive research report, “From Border Barriers to Bi-National Promise,” by the Creative Class Group, in partnership with Global CONNECT at the University of California, San Diego found that in today’s increasingly global “borderless economy” both the U.S. and Mexico would benefit significantly from establishing a “frictionless border,” one that enables the border to act as a platform for economic development and growth rather than a bottleneck created by Homeland Security policies.

“Place, not statehood, is the central axis of our time and of our global economy,” explained Richard Florida, international best-selling author of The Rise of the Creative Class, and founder of the Creative Class Group. “In this age of epochal economic challenges, we need to open doors, not close them.” Florida stated in his preface to the report that, “Fixing the border problem will be key”.

Utilizing a case study of the San Diego-Tijuana border to understand the impact of the border, researchers poured over many preexisting research studies and news articles to understand the border’s impact on work and life. Researchers met with dozens of business, community and government officials on both sides of the Tijuana-San Diego border to hear their personal stories and vision for a frictionless U.S. and Mexico border.

The inescapable conclusion of our report is clear: billions of dollars of economic opportunity are being lost due to the narrow definition of the border as exclusively a homeland security issue.

“The key to fully maximizing the potential of the border will require us to integrate economic, social and cultural objectives into border policy,” stated Mary Walshok, associate vice chancellor and extension dean at the University of California, San Diego and a co-author on the report.

Select key findings included:

  • Annual border spending has tripled over the last decade as lawmakers have allocated funds to build a sophisticated network of sensors, fences, law enforcement patrols, and unmanned aerial vehicles.
  • More than 60,000,000 crossings between San Diego and Baja California each year. More than half the trips are for shopping and recreation; some ten million are for work. Annually, 730,000 trucks cross into California and a similar number cross into Mexico.
  • The direct losses from narrow policy objectives, antiquated infrastructure and border management between San Diego County and Baja California amounted to $2.9 billion in foregone gross output, 40,000 jobs in the San Diego and Baja California regions and $7.2 billion and 62,000 jobs in the U.S. and Mexican economies as a whole.
  • Emissions and pollution at the border crossings have been linked to respiratory problems, cardiovascular disease and cancer in vulnerable populations.

The report also offered a series of recommendations for reimagining border policy, management, and infrastructure and discussed how these new approaches could accelerate economic and cultural development for both the U.S. and Mexico:

  • A formal separation between security and policy considerations in the governance of U.S. border operations, and the inclusion of the Department of State and/or the Department of Commerce in its management;
  • Significant investment in better border technologies and government management systems;
  • Investment in more efficient transportation infrastructure, from bi-national airports to modern surveillance programs developed by private enterprises;
  • Improved data collection and the development of shared databases of regional demographics and economic trends;
  • An expanded commitment to cross-border civic and networking initiatives; and
  • The private sector needs to be brought in to assist in all of the above.

The full report can be downloaded here.

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