At the U.S.-Mexican Border, Prosperity and Pollution

At the U.S.-Mexican Border, Prosperity and Pollution by Michael Dear.
May 19, 2013 | New York Times: Letters

To the Editor:

“Building Ties to a Neighbor on the Border” (front page, May 13) raises an important issue that is overlooked in immigration reform debates. From the viewpoint of the people living along the United States-Mexico boundary line, the border is a connecting tissue, not a divide. The mayors of San Diego and Tijuana understand this, and are working together to realize their shared destiny.

A similar, centuries-old cross-border mentality unites other “twin cities” along the entire borderline, including El Paso/Ciudad Juárez and Brownsville/Matamoros.

Today, border states are among the fastest-growing regions in both countries. But the last decade of boundary-line fortifications has caused serious damage to the shared lives and commerce along the border, and has poisoned binational relations.

Instead of focusing on building even more barricades, as required by some House and Senate members, we should follow the lead of twin-city mayors and work toward strengthening cross-border ties. Mexico is already far ahead of us in developing the infrastructure necessary for future economic prosperity.

Your article does an excellent job reporting the economic effects felt on both sides of the border because of long northbound border wait times. But in addition to the economic effects, there are potential adverse health effects because of exposure to traffic exhaust at the United States-Mexican border crossings, including at the San Ysidro Port of Entry into San Diego.

Drivers sit in idling cars, exposed to exhaust fumes, and pedestrians, including elderly people, pregnant women and children, queue for hours right next to lines of diesel buses and passenger vehicles.

Pollutants are many times higher right next to the source as compared with a thousand feet away. Health effects from near-traffic exposures documented in many studies include the worsening of asthma, cardiovascular disease and effects on pregnancy.

Reducing northbound wait times at the United States-Mexican border crossings is an urgent health issue as well as an economic concern.