California-Mexico Border Relations Council
December 13, 2021 | 1:00-4:00 p.m.
- Call to Order, Logistics, Interpretation Announcement, Roll Call, and Establishment of Quorum – Chair Blumenfeld, CalEPA
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 1:00 p.m. by Chair Jared Blumenfeld. The meeting was held via Zoom and was also broadcast via live webcast.
Simultaneous interpretation was provided in Spanish and English.
The following Council Members were present for the duration of the meeting:
- Secretary Jared Blumenfeld, California Protection Agency (CalEPA), Chair
- Chief April Fernandez, California Health and Human Services Agency (CHHS)
- Deputy Secretary Andrea Ambriz, California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA)
- Secretary David Kim, California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA)
- Undersecretary Christine Birdsong, California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA)
- Director Mark Ghilarducci, California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES)
- Deputy Secretary Erica Gonzalez, Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency (BCSH)
- Director Dee Dee Myers (1-2 p.m.), Deputy Director Emily Desai (delegate, 2-4 p.m.), California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (Go-Biz)
- Deputy Director Bridget Coyl, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Ex-officio Member
No members were absent.
A quorum of Council Members was established.
Chair Blumenfeld thanked everyone for joining. Chair Blumenfeld welcomed the public and dignitaries.
- Baja California:
- Governor Marina del Pilar Ávila Olmeda
- Kurt Honold, Secretary of Economy and Innovation
- Monica Vega, Secretary for Environmental Protection and Sustainability
- José Adrián Medina Amarillas, Secretary of Health
- Transportation Cabinet Members
- Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, California’s Representative for International Affairs and Trade
- Consul General Liliana Ferrer
No public comment.
- Welcome/Introduction by Lieutenant Governor of California Eleni Kounalakis
- Lieutenant Governor of California Eleni Kounalakis welcomed all the Members of the Council and the public.
- She spoke about the importance of partnership with Mexico.
No public comment.
- Opening Remarks by Governor of Baja California Marina del Pilar Ávila Olmeda
- Governor of Baja California Marina del Pilar Ávila Olmeda thanked everyone for joining on Zoom.
- She appreciated the follow-up from her September trip to Sacramento. She had a very productive discussion with the Chair of CalEPA, Jared Blumenfeld and the Ambassador of the U.S. about coordination and collaboration between governments to benefit the people who live at the border.
- She emphasized that there is an opportunity to recover the lost time of the last two years and focus on the issues that are important, such as transboundary flows of wastewater.
No public comment.
- Presentation, Discussion, and Possible Action to Approve the 2020 California-Mexico Border Relations Council Draft Annual Report to the Legislature – Chair Blumenfeld, CalEPA
- Action Item: The Council reviewed and voted to approve the 2020 Annual Report of the California-Mexico Border Relations Council Report.
- Motion: Dee Dee Myers
- Second: Andrea Ambriz
- Yes: Blumenfeld, Fernandez, Ambriz, Kim, Birdsong, Ghilarducci, Gonzales, Myers, Coyl
- No: None
- Abstain: None
- No public or Council Member comments on the item, and the report was unanimously approved by the Council to be sent to the Legislature.
- Discussion and Possible Action to Approve Draft Minutes for the December 10, 2020 Meeting – Chair Blumenfeld, CalEPA
- Action Item: Draft Meeting Minutes from the December 10, 2020 Council meeting were reviewed.
- Minutes were voted on and unanimously approved by the Council.
- Motion: Helen Lopez
- Second: Andrea Ambriz
- Yes: Blumenfeld, Fernandez, Ambriz, Kim, Birdsong, Ghilarducci, Gonzales, Myers, Coyl
- No: None
- Abstain: None
No public comment.
- Updates on COVID-19 Response in the Border Region – Baja California, California Office of Binational Border Health, Cal OES
José Adrián Medina Amarillas, Secretary of Health for Baja California Norte
- Secretary Medina covered:
- Vaccination efforts, including provision of booster vaccines
- Support received from the Federation of Mexico and President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, including an increase in medical supplies
- Progress in decreasing the mortality rates and reducing the need for respiratory support.
Chair Blumenfeld thanked Secretary Medina and stated that he looks forward to continuing to the collaboration with him and his team.
Dr. Esmeralda Iniguez-Stevens, Office of Binational Border Health (OBBH), California Department of Health and Human Services
- Shared a brief synopsis of the California Department of Public Health Office of Binational Border Health (OHHB), which is responsible for:
- Surveillance and monitoring for infectious diseases
- Collaboration and communication at the local, state, and federal levels, both in the U.S. and Mexico
- Migrant border response as it relates to COVID-19
- Their office was able to quickly respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in the following ways:
- They have established a national partnership and surveillance system to be prepared to respond to infectious disease threats in the border region, allowing them to be able to quickly mount a border response in the face of the pandemic.
- The state has a web-based system for tracking infectious disease conditions called Count Ready, so any case throughout the state of California that is entered into the system that has a link to Mexico is automatically flagged and reported so that they can take proper public health action.
- Their office has also offered technical assistance and the best outbreak response to help local health jurisdictions. They have served as a 24/7 duty officer for any partners, both in the border region or in Mexico, that need any kind of information as it relates to the endemic part of their communication and collaboration as part of the U.S.-Mexico binational technical workgroup.
- Additionally, they have received funds from the CDC to enhance vaccination efforts among hard-to-reach populations and they are currently working to establish and initiate this program both in San Diego and Imperial County. Again, working to enhance vaccination efforts to reach populations such as migrant farmworkers and other populations.
- As an additional project, they have also started a COVID-19 focus survey involving regions along the U.S.-Mexico border not just limited to California but also Arizona and Texas whereby they wanted to understand the cross-border mobility patterns during the pandemic and the factors that may drive COVID-19 transmission in border communities. To date they have collected on average 6,000 surveys across six ports of entry from individuals that entering the U.S. They implemented the survey to learn more about mobility patterns and COVID-19 related vaccine knowledge. They are looking forward to the results of the survey and using them to really reinforce local programs in the border region.
- Lastly, their office has recently focused on services offered to migrant populations entering into California. They have done this in coordination with their local health jurisdictions, local County, San Diego, Imperial Riverside and NGOs. Specifically, the services that they have offered to incoming migrants are part of a humanitarian response. They have offered rapid testing, vaccines, and sheltering space to quarantine and isolate if an individual is a case or have had close contact with a case.
Director Mark Ghilarducci:
- It has been a tough couple of years, and everyone has been really stepping up to try to address all these issues.
Assistant Director Sherri Saro, Unified Border Coordination Team and the humanitarian efforts:
- At the border in San Diego, Riverside and Imperial County
- Their mission is to support asylum seekers and migrants by providing testing vaccinations and medical screening on onward travel throughout the United States.
- There are three different clients they deal with when it comes to those entering California via the Southwest border:
- Some of them are coming through the San Ysidro port of entry under the migrant protection protocol.
- Others are coming without inspection and those are the ones that come in between the ports of entry.
- There are also unaccompanied minors, which are under federal jurisdiction.
- Their mission in the Unified Border Coordination Group is:
- To provide COVID-19 testing to all migrants that come through the southwest border
- Offer migrants vaccinations
- Shelter migrants in resource centers, which are hotels that they’ve completely leased out in San Diego and Imperial as well as different hotel sites in Riverside
- Offer migrants medical screening to help them with medications that they maybe hadn’t brought with them
- Their clients are brought to them by US Border Patrol, Ice and Customs, and Border Protection.
- By the end of December, they will have helped over 80,000 asylum seekers and migrants coming into the United States through the southwest border in California.
- They have sheltered 90,000 in rooms and have tested and vaccinated over 81,000 migrants. In February they will have been doing this mission for almost a year and are projected to have helped over 100,000 migrants at this time.
There were no public comments on the item.
- Presentation on Waste Tires in the Border Region – Baja California, CalRecycle
Issues with Current Disposal of Tires, Secretary of the Environment for Baja California Monica Vega
- Current disposal of tires is an important issue to Baja California, as well as a worrisome topic.
- It is an issue for the Baja California government since the majority of tires being used are from the United States and end up in illegal locations resulting in them being burned out in the open making it a threat to everyone’s health.
- Medical experts have to deal with the impact of air quality on people’s health when these are burned out in the open.
- The Tijuana Tire Collection Center operated in the period 2012 to 2015. A company shred tires temporarily in Tijuana. Having not reached an agreement with the government, the government stopped providing the service but they continued to receive them.
Waste Tires in the Border Region, CalRecycle Deputy Directors Mark de Bie and Matt Hennigan
- Over two decades ago, there was number of very large tire fires that led to the Californian Legislature imposing a higher fee on all new tires sold in California.
- That fee partially goes to CalRecycle and part goes to the Air resources Board to help manage waste tires to prevent large tire plies, illegal disposal in California and all of the issues that result from those potential piles, fire disease vectors and others.
- CalRecycle is required by legislation to submit a five-year tire plan describing how funds collected will be spent. CalRecycle added a chapter to the five-year tire plan, specifically bringing focus to our programs on the border.
- Out of the about 36 million tires sold in Mexico each year, 760,000 are coming from California and about 2% of those tire sales go to address the challenges of waste tires in the border region.
- CalRecycle’s Clean Up Inner Abatement Program is designed to address tire pile situations quickly so they cannot grow into a situation that would create severe environmental and health impacts.
- Another large part of their strategy is promoting beneficial reuse of tires.
- He shows their 75% goal for tire recycling but states that only 37% were actually recycled.
- He goes on to say that he would like to focus on the board related activities that are found in their five-year plan.
New Border Efforts:
- One of the newer items that they’ve included in their five-year tire plan is to bring in contract resources to help identify areas within the border region on the California side where tires may be stockpiled illegally using drone technology. The idea is to find these locations and have them assessed relative to what it would take to remediate with the site’s and then work with partners at all levels, local, regional, state and national to determine, financing mechanisms that could assist those entities and help remediate those piles.
- By identifying the sites assessing the sites, providing estimates on the cost of cleanup, that information could be provided to these entities to assist them in applying for the grant and be successful in receiving the grants from CalRecycle.
- The market development CalRecycle has also committed to hold virtual workshops to disseminate information on rubberized asphalt concrete and tire derived aggregate technology.
- CalRecycle is beginning to have discussions with customs officials at the border to explore new ways that they can understand and then develop strategies to address the legal as well as potentially illegal movement of waste tires from California to Mexico.
Secretary Vega: She states that for the Government of Baja California it is very important and necessary to understand first-hand information shared. She believes this shows a promising future working together long term. She is very grateful and is glad they are in the same page and working on recycling efforts to benefit the environment. She will communicate with them further through their contact information.
- Thanks Chair Blumenfeld. She states that she is the Director of International Strategy for the Economy and Innovation and Secretary of the State of Baja California. She states that as she heard the information about tires, she noticed that there is one other piece of information that she thinks everyone should be aware of which is illegal vehicles coming into Baja California. Each vehicle brings its own set of tires, and she thinks many of the tires are probably getting to Mexico that way.
- The State of Baja California was the first state in Mexico to do smoke check type programs, but even with that, when she’s met with folks and the registration is also an issue.
- In Baja, there are around 700,000 unregistered star cars who came from California. Maybe more than 90% of unregistered cars in Baja are coming from California.
- She requests that license plates be surrendered when vehicles are sold in California.
Chair Blumenfeld: He states they will definitely follow up with Stella Fuente after this to work together.
No additional public comment.
- Transportation Updates in the Border Region – Baja California, CalSTA
Transportation Updates, CalSTA Senior Advisor Giles Giovinazzi
Update on traffic through California’s land ports of entry since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted last month:
- As they had discussed earlier in March 2020, The Department of Homeland Security imposed COVID-19 related restrictions on non-essential cross border travel. These restrictions were lifted on November 8, allowing foreign citizens to enter the U.S. via land ports of entry with appropriate proof of vaccination.
- Overall, pedestrian and passenger vehicle crossings at California land ports of entry are still not at pre-pandemic levels, but they have increased consistently and even more so, with non-essential travel restrictions lifted.
- They have recently witnessed increasing peak border wait times of up to several hours. This has been attributed partly to the lifting of restrictions last month, but also attributed to new customs and border patrol procedures.
- Cross border freight traffic increased throughout the pandemic and has surpassed pre-pandemic levels. The increase in cross border freight traffic has been attributed to the July 2020 implementation of the USMCA trade agreement.
Otay Mesa East Land Port of Entry:
- Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis and Secretary Kim have been very engaged in the development of the Otay Mesa East Land Port of Entry. The construction of the project continues to make progress.
- Their Mexican counterparts have informed them that they expect to finalize design for their portion of roadway by January of 2022, and their portion of the port of entry by March of 2022.
- Lastly 65 new CBP officers will be required to efficiently staff Otay Mesa East port of entry when it begins operations in 2024.
No public comment.
- General Councilmember Border Updates – All Councilmembers
California Natural Resources Agency, Deputy Secretary Andrea Ambriz:
- CNRA has approximately $565 million in funding for Salton Sea related activities, which they’re very excited about. In the forthcoming years through the end of 2021, their Salton Sea management program has committed over $270 million funding into implementing critical habitat dust suppression in water quality improvement projects.
- CNRA recently announced around $548 million in state grant funding to deliver green spaces into communities across California as part of their Outdoors for All Initiative. One new $8.5M project is in San Ysidro in a direct adjacent area to the U.S. Mexico border crossing.
California Department of Food and Agriculture, Undersecretary Christine Birdsong:
CDFA engagement on border relations is focused on three key areas:
- Plant and Animal Health:
- Plant Health: They continue to work with colleagues in Mexico addressing plant pests that are of mutual concern. CDFA continues to work with border state counterparts in addressing pests and vectors on a devastating disease that threatens citrus trees and citrus fruit production.
- Animal Health: They are focused on cattle health, working with their federal partners and Mexican state officials on electronic cattle identification and cattle bovine tuberculosis eradication.
- Mexico is California’s largest agricultural export destination valued at just over $1 billion.
- Dairy products, table grapes and almonds remain their top agricultural exports to the Mexican market this year.
- They have conducted a variety of trade activities including virtual buyer meetings, trade show participation in Guadalajara, and online retail promotion.
- Intergovernmental relations within animal health:
- CDFA is an active participant in the Trinational Agricultural Accord which brings together the state and provincial representatives of Canada and Mexico in the U.S. to focus on the shared age priorities.
- Earlier this year, Secretary Ross had the pleasure to meet with Governor Marina del Pilar, where they discussed the potential of further collaboration between California and Baja California on climate smart agriculture, workforce development and food processing.
- Secretary Ross also had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Isabel Studer and Consul General Liliana Ferrer to continue and build on research collaboration in agriculture and climate.
California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, Deputy Director Emily Desai:
Trade between California and Mexico:
- Mexico is the most important international trade partner. It is a trade dynamic that is reciprocal and independent.
- California imported more than 40 billion in goods from Mexico in 2020.
- Even during the pandemic over $21 billions of exports flowed through Calexico and the Otay Mesa ports into Baja California.
- In a virtual trade mission with Baja California in May 2021, they highlighted opportunities for business engagement in the IT and aerospace sectors. They brought 13 California companies virtually to Baja, where several California and business executives joined them.
- Promoting cross border economic development that benefits communities on both sides of the border is a critical area of focus for the administration and their team at GO-Biz. They know that Mexican investment into California provides job opportunities for thousands of Californians.
- Their 2020 FDI report shows that in just Southern California, for example, Mexican foreign owned firms provided more than 6,500 jobs at over 250 firms. That’s more than half a billion dollars in wages for California workers.
Business, Consumer Services, and Housing Agency:
- Their departments within continue to focus on providing assistance and consumer protection to border communities.
- One of the most critical investments that they’ve done recently is their California COVID-19 Review Rent Relief Program. The program provides financial assistance for unpaid rent to eligible renters and landlords who have been impacted by COVID-19. Priority assistance will be given to income eligible households most at risk, including Imperial County. They’ve served over 853 households totaling over $4.6 million and there’s an additional $91 million in investments combined between San Diego City and County.
- The other project she’d like to highlight as well is Project Homekey.
- Homekey has played a pivotal role in their response to COVID-19. The program has created an opportunity for local public agencies to purchase motels and other housing types to increase the community’s capacity to respond to the pandemic. The target population is individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness.
- In round one of Homekey, Imperial and San Diego Counties combined received nearly $47 million in investments. Using the funds, regions stepped up to create more than 420 units or homes to address homelessness. They are now in round two of home key applications and are currently accepted on a rolling basis, until funds are exhausted or by May 2 of 2022, whichever of those comes first.
- This round also includes a set aside for tribes and homeless youth and a geographic set aside to support geographic equity and awarding funds.
- Additional investments: They announced a $30 million investment to upgrade the state’s 24 migrant housing centers. This creates more welcoming spaces for upwards of 11,000 foreign workers and their families when they return to work in the spring. Improvements include broadband internet, renovating apartments and community spaces, adding or improving playgrounds and tot lots and upgrading older infrastructure. They are also including essential services, including access to health education, food banks and more.
Border 2025 Program Updates, Directors Bridget Coyl and Melissa Dimas:
- S. EPA and Mexico have signed the new Border 2025 program. It includes the 10 border states and the 26 tribes as key partners. The program has four goals this time with specific objectives under each to improve air quality, water quality, waste management and emergency preparedness and response. It has a renewed with a stronger focus on environmental justice and climate change as part of their guiding principles, including addressing public health.
- Border 2025 is inviting the Chairs of the 26 tribes in the border region to be part of the regional coordinators program. She goes on to state that the Leadership Program Partner Seminar is also working to facilitate the voice of the indigenous communities in Mexico by working with the National Institute of Indigenous Communities.
- EPA border funds were recently awarded in the California and Baja California area in partnership with the North American Development Bank.
- She states the U.S.-Mexico Environmental Program is a bi-national effort to protect human health and the environment in the region.
- The projects totaled over $330,000 in EPA funds and has over $500,000 in matching funds.
- They have five projects in the Baja California region.
Water Updates, Manager Lily Lee:
- US EPA sent a letter to the CA Governor to let him know that they expect FY 22 to be able to deliver $600 million for water infrastructure through the state’s revolving loan fund program, an important opportunity to focus on small and disadvantaged environmental justice communities.
- Tijuana River:
- Congress appropriated $300 million for addressing transboundary sewage flows. Through a lot of analysis and stakeholder input, they are realizing now that it will take $600 million for a comprehensive solution.
- They plan to continue moving forward with the funds that are secured.
- EPA Administrator Michael Regan and Ambassador Ken Salazar met with the governor of Baja California, as well as with federal officials in Mexico, to discuss their next steps in working together and will issue a joint statement of commitment.
CalEPA, Chair Blumenfeld:
- Bidtah Becker will be joining CalEPA as the Deputy Secretary for Environmental Justice, Tribal Affairs and Border Relations. She is currently at the Navajo Nation Tribal Utility and she was also the Director of Natural Resources for the Nation between 2015 and 2019. She not only speaks fluent Navajo but speaks fluent Spanish and has a degree from Georgetown.
- First-time funding was allocated in Senate Bill 170 to look at cross border water issues. They have been working with both the regional water boards to think about how to implement the funds.
- In terms of disadvantaged communities, the fourth version of CalEnviroScreen, their environmental mapping tool, was finalized in October. The updated tool continues to enhance information on cross border pollution and categories, such as particulate matter, traffic impacts, toxic releases from facilities, solid waste sites and hazardous waste generators.
- Air Quality:
- The CA Air Resources Board (CARB) has assisted the City of Tijuana and the City of Mexicali to establish a network of low-cost air sensors.
- CARB began diesel monitoring in San Ysidro which will establish a sensor network to provide indicators such as p.m. and black carbon in the border community.
- CARB is working on an emissions inventory project to update the fleet characteristics in Mexicali and Tijuana and to cut this as improving the current emissions model, which will provide a baseline to help improve air quality in the region.
- On climate change, CalEPA and CARB recently provided input to San Diego County’s draft Decarbonization Framework, which is a regional zero carbon sustainability plan that hopes to serve as a model for the rest of the region.
No public comment provided on this item.
- Future Meeting Date and Agenda Items
- Follow-up will occur between California and Baja California on COVID-19, fair trade, housing, agriculture, air quality, water quality and waste tires.
- Future agenda items will flow from the meetings that they have between now and the next meeting.
- But if there are issues that anyone want to double down on and discuss in between, he asks them to please raise them now or raise them with Elizabeth King anytime.
No public comment.
- Public Comment on Items Not on the Agenda – The Council may not discuss or take action on any matter raised during the Public Comment section that is not included on this agenda, except whether to decide to place the matter on the agenda of a future meeting. (Gov. Code, §§ 11125, 11125.7, subd. (a).
No public comment.
Concluding Remarks, Chair Blumenfeld: He thanked Elizabeth, Michelle, and Tish for running an incredibly good meeting. He thanked the interpreters who make all of this possible, and thanks all his colleagues from Baja California. He then thanks the public and the hard-working women and men in California that make the state great every day. He concludes by telling everyone to have a great rest of their day and have a happy holiday season. He looks forward to catching up with everyone in 2022.