By Alexandra Mendoza
According to San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce data, local businesses lost just over $1 million per hour during the five hours that the San Diego-Tijuana border remained closed this past weekend.
The upheaval south of the border when a group of immigrants tried to rush into the U.S. forced enforcement agencies to shut down operations at what is known as “the busiest border crossing in the world.”
The impacts were immediate and devastating for the hundreds of businesses that depend on Mexican customers, particularly since it occurred during the Black Friday weekend, one of the most profitable periods for these businesses.
San Ysidro businesses lost an estimated $5.3 million due to the border closure. Other cities whose lifeblood are the thousands of visitors from south of the border – such as Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, National City, and San Diego – may have suffered similar losses.
According to the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce, at least about 700 local businesses get 93 percent of their revenue from cross-border shoppers, and the largest percentage of that comes during the period from Nov. 20 through Jan. 6. This year, the border has been shut down three times during that period, including for exercises carried out by U.S. agencies fearing a mass crossing of immigrant caravan members to petition for political asylum.
The uncertainty has impacted the region, as many shoppers are thinking twice about crossing into the U.S. because they are scared they might not be able to return home.
“It’s a very serious situation, because as we know, our (local) economies are tied to each other,” said Paola Avila, Vice-President of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.
With President Donald Trump threatening to shut down the border with Mexico once again “permanently, if necessary,” the mere possibility of it worries local businesses as well as workers who live on one side of the border and work on the other. Many have taken steps and looked at alternatives in the event that the border is temporarily shut down once again. Others just hope it will not happen. The reality, however, is that whether it will happen or not is anyone’s guess. “Uncertainty is not good for business,” stressed Avila.
San Ysidro Chamber Executive Director Jason Wells agrees that the rumors going around regarding the situation have had an impact, with some businesses already seeing decreased sales since days before in comparison to the previous year. “Not knowing affects us more than the actual events,” he said.
Over 50,000 vehicles and 25,000 pedestrians cross through San Ysidro every day, and it is estimated that one in six people entering the U.S. do so through this busy Port of Entry.
For Wells, the President has yet to understand the economic implications of closing down the border one more time. “He has no idea [what he is saying],” he expressed. “It’s like when he sent the 5,000 troops; if he really wanted to help the situation, he would have been better off sending 5,000 officers to process the asylum petitions.”