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Business leaders discuss consequences of another border shutdown

Posted at 11:17 PM, Mar 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-30 02:17:55-04

SAN YSIDRO, Calif., (KGTV) -- San Diego community leaders responded to comments made by the President, where he threatened to close down the US-Mexico border indefinitely if Mexico does not handle the wave of asylum seekers coming into the United States.

Paola Avila with the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce is part of a nearly 100 person joint-delegation from San Diego and Baja California, going to Mexico City this Sunday, to champion US-Mexico relations.

"Closing the border is not an option. Neither a portion nor all of it," Avila said.

San Ysidro Port of Entry is the busiest land border crossing in the Western Hemisphere. More than 70,000 vehicles and 25,000 pedestrians cross into the United States every day.

President Trump recently tried to direct $3.5 Billion from the Pentagon to build his campaign promise wall. But that was blocked by Senate Democrats and 12 Republicans. Now Baja-Cali business leaders fear the President will force a port and border shutdown.

"Closing the border will be a profit-making operation," the President said.

Not so, said Jason Wells with the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce. As the Executive Director, he advocates for 650 businesses that have a zipcode one and a half miles from the border. He will be joining Avila on Sunday, in the advocacy delegation. He knows first hand the severe consequences of a shutdown.

"Our daily lives are affected by the border crossings and how long that takes. So we certainly wish that not to be something to be toyed with," Wells said.

When migrants rushed the border last November, San Ysidro Port of Entry was shut down for just five hours. In that short time, the city lost $5.3 million in revenue. This does not include the economic impacts to neighboring Chula Vista, National City, or San Diego.

ABC News consultant John Cohen, who held a senior role at Homeland Security, said the last time there was a border shutdown was during the Reagan administration. He said it caused severe economic harm to both countries.

"History tells us when you shut down the southern border, it does little to stop to flow of illegal drugs into the US. It does little to stop illegal immigration. You do cause significant economic harm to the US," Cohen told ABC News.

Especially in this global economy, Avila said, where pesos and dollars are swiftly exchanged, and where commerce and culture are deeply intertwined.

"Our economies, communities, workforce, our businesses are so integrated. It's like dissecting a person. Dividing a person in half is not viable," Avila said.

Mexico's foreign minister responded in a tweet: "Mexico does not act on the basis of threats."