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Outlet Stores at the Border Offer Window on Skirmish

Big Mall Closed, ‘People are scared’

By Laura Hauther

The Las Americas Premium Outlets mall sits right at the border in San Ysidro. (Laura Hauther)

Last Sunday’s skirmish at the border made for a rough start for the holiday shopping season at Las Americas Premium Outlets, a 560,000 square foot outlet mall that sits right at the border in San Ysidro.

One shopper was quoted by a local Fox News affiliate saying it was like a war, with planes and police officers everywhere.

Concerned for the safety of their customers and merchants, Las Americas closed for the day, reopening for business as usual the following day.

But for the merchants of Las Americas the disruption continues to be a drag on the usual holiday shopping frenzy.

The manager of one store, Gem and Bead Mall, said she estimates her business is down as much as 50% over average post-Thanksgiving rush thanks to the clash at the border.

“People who usually come here (from Tijuana) to shop and people from here go there to shop but now they’re not sure if the border will be open or not. People are scared they won’t be able to get back home.””

What was supposed to have been a peaceful protest erupted into a push for the border when a group of around 500 migrants managed to break the line of Mexican police. Rock and debris were thrown at the American Border Patrol, striking four officers. The Border Patrol responded by shooting tear gas canisters into the crowd, which included women and children. None of the officers were seriously hurt due to their protective gear.

Sixty-nine people were arrested by the Border Patrol and 98 by Mexican police. The following day nearly 500 Mexican police surrounded the migrant shelter in full riot gear in an obvious show of force, according to a report in The Desert Sun.

A repeat of Sunday’s protest would carry a heavy price for those on both sides of the border.

If you look closely, you can see the H&M logo beyond the razor wire fence. (Laura Hauther)

A clerk at one of the mall’s clothing stores told the Globe: “We were on lock down for two hours before the decision to close the entire mall for the day.”

That same day, the mall’s management released a statement on Facebook saying the closure was out of concern for both shoppers and employees:

“At Las Americas Premium Outlets, we are committed to providing a safe and secure shopping environment for our shoppers, retailers and employees. In light of this morning’s demonstrations, we have made the decision to temporarily close Las Americas. We encourage you to stay up-to-date on details surrounding our re-opening via Facebook. In the meantime, we appreciate everyone’s understanding and shared focus on safety, and we anticipate reopening Las Americas on Monday.”

All stores did reopened on Monday as promised and the nearby border crossing seemed back to business as usual, with people and cars flowing back and forth with little sign of Sunday’s disturbance other than the armed border agents on the Mexican side of the crossing.

In the stream of people, a family with several small children strolled down the walkway towards the U.S., casually talking about their holiday plans in Spanish.

Many people go back and forth across the border to work or shop or even go to school. The occasional border closures are very disruptive to those living in these areas separated by a short distance but a potentially huge political barrier.

Laura Hauther

Laura Hauther is a veteran reporter for KPFK and has written for several LA weekly newspapers.
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