McALLEN, RGV – Two of the best known groups that focus on border trade and improving infrastructure at land ports of entry have very different attitudes towards Donald Trump.

The Texas Border Coalition says it would be pleased to have a dialogue with the GOP presidential candidate on issues such as border security and immigration. The Border Trade Alliance says that would be a waste of time because Trump is not a serious candidate.

The Rio Grande Guardian asked both groups for their views to coincide with Trump’s visit to Laredo on Thursday.

Noe Garcia
Noe Garcia

BTA President Noe Garcia said he wished the topic of conversation was something more meaningful than Trump. Asked if the BTA had reached out to the Trump campaign while he was in Laredo, Garcia said: “Absolutely not. We do not see Mr. Trump as a viable candidate in the presidential election for 2016.” Asked, if the BTA had met with Trump, what it would have said, Garcia replied: “We probably would not have much to say to Mr. Trump because we don’t think he understands how the border works.”

One of Trump’s solutions for border security is to get Mexico to build a border wall. Asked what he thought of that idea, Garcia said: “The idea of him asking Mexico to pay for a border wall is beyond the pale. We have spent billions of dollars (on the border wall) and very little to show for it in terms of a return on investment.”

Garcia said he does not think Trump or his rhetoric is having any impact on border trade.

“His comments will not impact trade because I think most people see Mr. Trump as sideshow. He is a celebrity. He is not a scholar on any of these issues, by anyone’s imagination,” Garcia said.

“Trade happens every day in our border communities. Seven million jobs depend on our trade with Mexico. The economy is very dynamic between the U.S. and Mexico. It is Texas’ largest trading partner. Mexico is the third largest trading partner for the United States. Freight corridors are so critically important to the U.S. economy and not just the U.S. economy but also the Canadian economy. These routes of legal trade and travel will always be open. I don’t think anything Mr. Trump says is going to change that.”

Garcia said Trump’s remark about Mexico not sending its best people to the United States was incredibly offensive. “It is beyond offensive, it is ridiculous. It is not based on facts. It is all based on impulse. I believe his comments are inflammatory and racist.”

Garcia said there was one good thing about Trump’s visit to Laredo. “Having a conversation with Trump is a waste of our breath but the one good thing is that he is highlighting the importance of the relationship between the United States and Mexico and that relationship is not to going to be undone under by a billionaire with an obsessive sense of ego.”

Garcia went on to say: “I do not feel we need to be giving Trump any more media coverage than he has already been given. If we can focus on the positive relationship between the U.S. and Mexico and the fact that seven million U.S. jobs depend on that trade and that this trade puts six billion dollars into the economy for the U.S., it is all positive. Trade with Mexico is incredibly important and it is only going to increase over the next 15/20 years.”

Garcia pointed out that the U.S. and Mexico economies are becoming more and more interwoven. “I don’t think Mr. Trump understands that. I don’t think he understands that 40 percent of Mexico’s exports have a large percentage of components manufactured in the United States. A lot of what comes over from Mexico is not uniquely Mexican. There is added value and much of it comes from us.”

Asked if there was anything else he would like to say, Garcia said: “I wish we were commenting about something else.”

J.D. Salinas
J.D. Salinas

The president of the Texas Border Coalition is former Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas. Asked if the TBC had reached out to Trump during his visit to Laredo, Salinas said: “The Texas Border Coalition did not presume to intrude into Mr. Trump’s event. However, we are glad he chose to visit the Texas border to see for himself. We would encourage all of the presidential candidates to make a similar trip and meet with local officials with the idea of listening and learning, and focusing on smart and effective measures that can achieve true border security.”

Asked what the leadership of TBC would talk about if it were to meet with Trump, Salinas focused on four issues. “We would welcome him to the border. We would welcome Mr. Trump’s support in our efforts to help border communities grow and prosper, suggesting he could help could improve our efforts to: 1) educate our workforce to be able to carry Texas’ economy forward; 2) improve accessibility to existing health care programs and develop new creative solutions improve care for our people; 3) work toward fair and effective immigration reform that strengthens our borders and recognizes the economic contributions that trade and immigration make to the U.S. and Texas economies; and 4) rebuild and improve our roads and bridges.”

Asked what he thought about Trump’s proposal that Mexico pay for a fully developed border wall between San Diego and Brownsville, Salinas said: “The Texas Border Coalition has long opposed a wall on the border because it is an ineffective tool to address the problem.  We would suggest he review our studies that show that most illegal activity between the U.S. and Mexico is conducted at the understaffed legal ports of entry. As a smart investor, we would recommend that Mr. Trump invest in protecting our country where the threat is greatest: at the legal ports of entry. It is unclear to us how Mr. Trump plans to force the Mexican government to pay for a project outside their borders or authority. We would be interested to find out.”

Asked what impact Trump’s rhetoric is having on border trade, Salinas said: “None that we can detect.”