How Lives On Both Sides Of Border Towns Have Changed Since Trump Took Office

Apr 30, 2017
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We've been talking a lot this weekend about President Trump's first 100 days in office. Among the many issues we've been following is how Donald Trump makes good on his often-repeated campaign promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Since the campaign, the debate has moved more to who should pay for that wall. But we want to take a step back to talk about what the border is now, not the physical barrier so much, but what it means, and how it shapes life on both sides of the border, how it affects who you are and what you do.

This week, I'm heading to San Diego to dig into this with my colleagues at member station KPBS. It's the latest in our regular live events series called Going There. We call this one Beyond Borders. And we're going to talk about how the border affects everything - business, tourism, art, law enforcement.

And one of the people joining me on stage to talk all this over will be Jean Guerrero. She's the fronteras - or border reporter - at KPBS. She's also the author of a memoir coming out next year called "Crux," which takes us through her fascinating personal story that involves crossing borders that are both physical and otherwise. Jean, welcome. Thanks so much for speaking with us.

JEAN GUERRERO, BYLINE: Thank you so much for having me.

MARTIN: So you and I are both news people, so let me start with the obvious news peg. Has life on the border changed since President Trump took office?

GUERRERO: Absolutely. What I've noticed as a journalist, just being a reporter out in the field, is people are a lot more afraid. And there's just a lot more uncertainty, not just among immigrants, who are perhaps here illegally, but also their families and friends, businesses that rely on cross-border trade, who aren't sure how the NAFTA renegotiations are going to affect them, also people who live in Tijuana, who cross the border regularly and aren't sure if they're going to have to face longer wait times, and also Trump supporters, who because we're in a border town, they fear they're sort of a minority group here and don't always want to share their thoughts.

MARTIN: That's interesting. You're saying even Trump supporters are more afraid to talk to the press, too.

GUERRERO: Yeah, (unintelligible).

MARTIN: That's interesting. So as we mentioned, you know, the southern border of the United States has been a political flashpoint, you know, in part because of the presidential election year that concluded. But was it a daily conversation before that?

GUERRERO: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it's not just San Diego, or it's not just Tijuana, it's San Diego-Tijuana. It's a region. There's so much cross-border trade and business and just people who cross the border to drop off their kids in San Diego, people who go to Tijuana to do tourism. So there's just a lot of movement across the border. And I get the sense that people have always known that it's something that's very unique to this region and that we're in a way very lucky to have this sort of opportunity to have a constant cultural exchange.

MARTIN: You mentioned that people talk about the San Diego-Tijuana as kind of a region, not as a separate entity, is what - they think of it as a region. One of the things you were telling us, that I think people who don't live there may not know, that Tijuana's actually experiencing a bit of what we usually refer to as gentrification, you know, that there are upscale restaurants and boutiques and booming businesses that many people don't associate with the Tijuana, or the image that they had of Tijuana of the past. Tell us about that. What's going on there?

GUERRERO: Yeah, I mean, there's a booming Tijuana food scene is what they call it - a lot of foodies going down from San Diego, LA, I mean, all parts of California and even out of state who just want to go to Tijuana for the amazing food, the taco trucks and also more, like, upscale cuisine that sources a lot of their food from Baja California. And it was a very proactive effort on the part of chefs and just business people in Tijuana to try to rebuild the image of Tijuana in a more positive light. But what's kind of concerning is that it's once again experiencing a spike in violence. This is one of the most violent years in Tijuana's history.

MARTIN: This is Jean Guerrero. She's the fronteras reporter at member station KPBS. She'll be joining me on Tuesday in San Diego for the latest in our Going There live event series Beyond Borders. Jean Guerrero, thanks so much for speaking with us, can't wait to visit with you further.

GUERRERO: Thanks, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.