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Central American migrants marched toward the San Ysidro Port of Entry. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

The San Ysidro Port of Entry is one of the busiest border crossings in the world — especially so on the Sunday after a holiday weekend. But U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials shut it down in both directions Sunday after a group of migrants rushed toward the border. 

The Border Patrol reported that a breakaway group from a demonstration went through vehicle lanes, where they were turned back. Elsewhere, the Tijuana River crosses the border in a notorious concrete canal. Our Adriana Heldiz captured video of the moment many demonstrators ran across the canal and then toward the fencing on the U.S. side and PedWest. That was when officials shut down the border.

One report cited an unnamed Mexican official who said 30 people breached the border. Mexico pledged to deport them. U.S. law enforcement — provoked, officials said, by people throwing projectiles — fired tear gas over the border and into the crowd. That move got the world’s attention and produced some stunning images, including an instantly iconic picture of a woman running from the tear gas with two small children. U.S. Rep. Juan Vargas, who represents the area, slammed President Trump in a prepared statement.

While attention on the migrant caravan that made its way from Honduras had waned, Sunday’s events brought a vast humanitarian crisis developing in Tijuana to the world’s attention. And it was the stuff of nightmares for business leaders and border politicians who have worked for years to keep the cross-border economy healthy amid compounding threats.

For several hours, Interstate 5 and roads all around the border crossing were eerily empty but for law enforcement. By 5 p.m., both pedestrian and vehicle lanes were open again.   

Tijuana’s crisis: Days earlier, Mayor Juan Manuel Gastélum had declared a humanitarian crisis and asked the United Nations for aid as approximately 5,000 Central American migrants seeking asylum arrived and thousands more were expected.

  • Manuel Figueroa, head of the city’s social services department, told the Associated Press that “because of the absence, the apathy and the abandonment of the federal government, we are having to turn to international institutions like the U.N.”
  • KPBS reports that many mothers within the caravan are worried that the unruly men in their midst are hurting everyone’s chances for asylum in the United States. According to the U-T, more than 100 Central Americans had been detained, most for non-violent crimes involving drug possession, being drunk in public or disturbing the peace.
  • Meanwhile, health conditions appear to be worsening inside one large camp. The U-T reports that the government of Baja California by Friday had treated 818 respiratory infections and conducted 1,286 general medical consultations.
  • Tijuana has some experience with this. When the United States stopped accepting Haitian refugees, some 3,000 ended up staying in Tijuana and many of them have built successful lives there. (Associated Press)
  • Mexico will deport many of those arrested in the melee. (Associated Press)

Before Sunday’s mess: The Trump administration appears to have won the support of Mexico’s president-elect on a plan to require migrants wait in Mexico while their asylum claims work through the U.S. court system. The Washington Post reports that the agreement would break with long-standing asylum rules and place a formidable barrier in the path of migrants. Mexican officials, however, threw some cold water on the report. 

New Council President? The Rise of Georgette Gomez

San Diego City Councilwoman Georgette Gomez / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Georgette Gomez is poised to become one of the region’s most powerful elected officials.

Andrew Keatts reports that the San Diego City Councilwoman whose district includes City Heights has all but locked up the votes needed to become the next Council president, and she plans to push a progressive agenda.

Republicans helped orchestrate the selection of the last two Council presidents by supporting a Democrat willing to buck partisan allies. But Democrats now hold a supermajority, so the calculus has changed.

Gomez chairs the Metropolitan Transit System, and, if she wins the council presidency, she’ll become one of the city’s representatives to the San Diego Association of Governments, or SANDAG. Both are at critical junctures as they lay out the plans for transportation improvements and growth across the county,

Thanks to state legislation, San Diego is the most powerful city within SANDAG, because votes are weighted by each city’s population.

Politics Roundup: The San Diego Special

On the podcast, Scott Lewis, Sara Libby and Andrew Keatts considered some of the major issues in San Diego that have politically paralyzed local leaders in recent years. It comes in response to an op-ed written by Assemblyman Todd Gloria, who urged other officials not to let their disagreements for an expanded airport terminal mean nothing gets done.

Republican state Sen. Joel Anderson lost his bid for the Board of Equalization to an 80-year-old perennial candidate with a controversial past. While Anderson’s loss doesn’t necessarily derail his political future, it certainly raises doubts, writes U-T columnist Michael Smolens. As we noted recently, the Democrat who beat Anderson had no institutional support, but benefited from this year’s blue wave.

In Other News

  • Supporters of a 204-unit apartment building say the Bankers Hill project will help ease San Diego’s housing crisis and help the city meet goals for reducing greenhouse gases because it’s near transit, bike lanes and the city’s job centers. Residents don’t like it. So they’re threatening to sue on environmental grounds. (Union-Tribune)
  • The California Coastal Commission is increasing pressure on coastal cities to include managed retreat — the process of removing homes and infrastructure along the seashore — as part of the mix for future planning, as water levels rise. Del Mar is resistant to the idea. (Union-Tribune)
  • The board that governs SANDAG will have new leadership next year. Both the chair and vice chair are North County mayors and they belong to different political parties. (KPBS)
  • San Diego’s cruise ship terminal has been in a world of hurt the last few years, after passengers coming through the Port of San Diego’s cruise ship terminals crashed from nearly a million in 2008 to just 183,000 four years ago. But there’s reason for optimism, as increased interest in cruises to the Baja Peninsula has increased traffic, with the Port expecting 295,000 passengers this season and as many as 340,000 by 2020. (Union-Tribune)
  • San Diego’s marijuana supply chain is taking shape, but there are only so many production facility permits to go around. New members of the City Council may be more sympathetic to the marijuana industry’s argument that more legal businesses are needed to undercut the black market. (Union-Tribune)
  • Had it passed, Proposition 3 would have allowed Borrego Springs to fallow citrus and other farms. The land would have returned to its natural state as a desert. Now, the community in northeastern San Diego County needs to reduce its water consumption by 75 percent in the coming decades. (Union-Tribune)
  • It took almost a quarter century for local, state and federal agencies to come together and a replace a fence protecting the Silver Strand from a nature preserve. The project was proposed the same year the San Diego Chargers won their only AFC championship. (Union-Tribune)
  • A San Marcos woman who survived the horrors of the Jonestown religious cult looks back. Forty years later, she wrestles with its legacy. (Union-Tribune)

The Morning Report was written today by Scott Lewis, Jesse Marx and Andrew Keatts.

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