Mexican Pollution Pours Under Border Wall
By Joel D. Joseph, Chairman, Made in the USA Foundation
On many occasions, I have been to the Mexican-U.S. border at both Tijuana-San Diego and Calexico-Mexicali. Most Americans are not aware that the most dangerous invaders from the south are air and water pollution, industrial waste and noxious sewage, not immigrants. Geographically, the New River flows under the border wall from the Mexicali Valley carrying with it untreated sewage and toxic industrial waste north to Calexico and the Imperial Valley in California. It is the most polluted river in North America. Similarly, the Tijuana River flows north from Mexico to San Diego bringing with it raw sewage, chemical wastes and biological toxins.
A 2018 report published by California's Regional Water Board shows that the New River, where it crosses the U.S. border, contains extremely high levels of fecal coliform and E. coli bacteria. The report also states that annually tens of millions of gallons of raw sewage are dumped into the New River in Mexico.
The New River also poses a security risk for border agents according to David Kim, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. "Smuggling organizations still use the New River to move humans into the U.S.," said Kim. He added that border agents refuse to go into the New River to stop this illegal trafficking because the river is too polluted and presents a severe risk to the health of CBP agents.
The Tijuana River
In 1990, the U.S. and Mexico signed an agreement known as Minute 283, which included the provision that "the government of Mexico will assure that there are no discharges of untreated domestic or industrial wastewaters into waters of the Tijuana River that cross the international boundary. . ." This agreement has not been enforced. The Tijuana River flows north from Mexico to San Diego. Sewage continues to flow northward, spoiling beautiful beaches in San Diego where lifeguards are required to close the beaches every time it rains due to polluted water runoff.
For residents of Imperial Beach, a beach community just north of the border, that has meant frequent beach closures for health and safety reasons. In 2017, contamination from the Tijuana River caused the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health to close the shoreline at the river's mouth for 167 days. During this same period, it also ordered closures up the coast of Imperial Beach for 64 days, the Silver Strand for 26 days, and the Coronado beaches for 11 days. This is a real invasion of bacteria, sewage, and contamination that directly threatens the health of San Diegans and tourists. Our exceptionally brave and skilled Navy SEALs train in these polluted waters off the coast of their Coronado, California training center. For this reason, water pollution constitutes a risk to our national security because it endangers the health of one of our best and brightest fighting forces.
Kwikset, the largest manufacturer of locks in the world, moved its Anaheim, California factory lock, stock and barrel, to Mexicali, Mexico fifteen years ago. Not only did California lose 1,000 good-paying jobs, it harmed the health of residents of Imperial County California with greatly increased air pollution. One key reason factories move to Mexico is because of its lax enforcement of environmental laws, with Mexican officials turning a blind eye to air and water pollution and regulations.
Gilbert Rebollar, a board member of the Brawley Elementary School District near Calexico, California, said that students are routinely unable to go outside because the air quality is so dangerous. An estimated 20 percent of the children of Imperial County have asthma according to a 2016 California Health Survey, twice the state average. Asthma is caused and exacerbated by air pollutants. Mexican air pollution includes fumes from burned medical waste, tire pits and industrial contaminants.
The Real Emergency
The emergency on the border is not migrants seeking to enter the United States. The real emergency on the border is air and water pollution, a clear and present health emergency caused by pollution that is not stopped by either a border wall or a fence. NAFTA did not limit the air and water pollution that pours across the border, and NAFTA 2.0, Trump's overhyped USMCA, the U.S., Mexico, Canada Agreement, does little to address environmental protection. Congress should turn down the proposed USMCA until it includes tough, enforceable standards to control air and water pollution coming from Mexico. Not only does this toxic pollution threaten the health of Americans, it prevents border patrol agents from going into the rivers that allow illegal aliens to enter the United States, and presents an unreasonable and unnecessary health and safety risk to Navy SEALs.