Gov. Gavin Newsom visited San Diego County Thursday to host a roundtable discussion with local residents on President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration and what it’s like to live in a community on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Newsom sat with a group of San Ysidro residents at the El Rincon Restaurant as participants talked how San Ysidro is a vibrant community and how they hope the federal government can become more compassionate in its enforcement of immigration law. When asked what solutions can be found to humanize the local and national immigration debates, Newsom gestured to the residents flanking him.

“I think the solutions are sitting around this table,” Newsom said. “It’s folks that have the courage to express themselves against those in power and, as I suggested, put a human face on this discussion.”

Participants also spoke about the economic toll they face when cross-border commerce is interrupted, as it was in November when U.S. Customs and Border Protection shut down the San Ysidro Port of Entry for nearly six hours due to a group of Central American migrants attempting to cross the border. The closure was estimated to have affected $5.3 million in economic activity in San Ysidro alone.

Newsom’s appearance comes as the San Diego Rapid Response Network — a coalition of humanitarian, service and faith-based organizations that offers aid to asylum-seekers — moves into its new shelter facility in Bankers Hill. The first bill Newsom signed in office provided $5 million to the county to assist groups like the SDRRN in finding shelter and transportation resources for recent immigrants and asylum-seekers who may lack a support network.

The county Republican Party accused Newsom of playing politics with his visit.

“We remind Gov. Newsom that San Diego had a border crisis decades ago and built a border barrier which no sane person today is arguing should be torn down,” said party Chairman Tony Krvaric. “We challenge the governor to make his arguments to the faces of angel families and those whose children have been trafficked or hooked on drugs due to the criminal gangs which use our border for their evil deeds.”

Federal officials also continue to insist that there is a security crisis at the border. The New York Times reported Tuesday that border crossings reached their highest point in 11 years last month, a sign that hardline federal immigration policies may not be having their intended deterring effect.

According to the Times, migrant families have taken to crossing in remote border areas with few federal immigration resources rather than scaling border barriers in more populated areas like San Diego County. More than 76,000 migrants crossed the border last month without permission.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, reacting to the data, steered blame away from the federal government’s immigration policies.

“Activist courts, congressional inaction, and criminals intent on breaking our laws stand in the way of confronting illegal and uncontrolled migration threatening our safety and security,” Nielsen said. “What was a crisis, is now a full-fledged emergency.”

–City News Service