Two Business Owners, on Opposite Sides of the Border, Try to Find Common Ground

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Brian Holley (L) and Miguel Marshall meet 1 mile away from the U.S.-Mexico border to talk about how President Trump's proposed border wall affects both of their businesses.  (Erin Siegal McIntyre/KQED)

For our series Start the Conversation, we’ve been bringing people together who sit on different sides of a political or cultural divide, to talk about the issues that are important to them.

They’re civil dialogues, not debates -- and we hope they’re a way to try to bridge some of the divisions between us in this politically charged time.

Miguel Marshall and Brian Holley have a conversation about the Border Wall. They both run businesses in the border region but on different sides of the divide.

Miguel Marshall was born in San Diego and now lives in Tijuana. He's the CEO of Centro Ventures -- a real estate development company that operates in Mexico. Marshall is a dual citizen, and splits his time between projects on both sides of the border.

Brian Holley lives in San Diego and is the vice president of vScenario, one of the companies that recently bid on the Trump administration’s border wall project.

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We invited the two to have a discussion in the heart of the Tijuana River Valley. They sat in a parked car in the Tijuana Community Garden along a quiet street lined with ranches, a mile from the actual border. They talked about their hopes for the region, and found they agreed on more than they thought they would.

Brian Holley (L), and Miguel Marshall meet one mile away from the U.S.-Mexico border to talk about how President Trump's proposed border wall affects both of their businesses.
Brian Holley (L), and Miguel Marshall meet 1 mile away from the U.S.-Mexico border to talk about how President Trump's proposed border wall affects both of their businesses. (Erin Siegal McIntyre/KQED)

On the need for border security:

Brian: I do think it's important for the U.S. and Mexico to upgrade the border security and the wall. The barrier itself will be very instrumental to the security of both sides.

Miguel: What I do believe is other type of things for border security, [like technology], would be more effective.

Brian: There's a lot of technology options that can achieve the same border security goals and not create such a physical reminder of a barrier between nations, as well as not be as expensive, which is obviously a concern.

On the political rhetoric surrounding the wall:

Miguel: Well, if the border security becomes a wall, I know it's going to be very polarizing. It's gonna create friction. A wall wouldn't be at all healthy, I would say, just because of the term "wall." Wall versus bridge. So, which one do you choose?

Brian: I believe the term, when it is trumped up to say wall, it causes people to go in a very defensive mode and it's not healthy for reaching what could be a very productive conclusion. You know, I was a Trump voter, I am a supporter of the border security being increased. However, I was not a supporter of and don't agree with the rhetoric that he uses.

Miguel: Well, everyone who is doing business on both sides of the border, we're going to choose "bridge." We're going to choose making things smoother, making things faster, making things more efficient. A wall basically stops everything. So using the term wall in any way, it’s not going to help.

On being neighborly:

Brian: I mean, if Miguel and I are neighbors and we don't have a fence and I have a dog that is going into his property or he's got a horse that's going into my property and we say, "Hey, why don't we build a fence between our backyards?" We're still neighbors. I'm still going to reach over the fence and say hello or have you over for dinner.

Miguel: We have people who are leaving from Tijuana and San Diego. We have people working from Tijuana, from San Diego. We have that cross-border relationship on a very small scale, but it can be replicated on a larger scale.  So, it's all going to depend on what we can do as individuals and continue doing, even though the policy and rhetoric on both sides is being negative. If you increase border security, increase trade relations. We need to do business, we need to continue providing for the citizens that live on both sides of the border.

Erin Siegal McIntyre helped produce this story.