Pharr Memorial Day: Large Leaderboard

Trump now threatens to close the entire southern border! Can you imagine the millions that would cost to try to implement?

AND the billions lost in trade and jobs?

So, no. Dios Mio, don’t let it happen! Instead, from me, a muy feliz año—a Happy New Year—we wish to Mexico.

We send these wishes but we also receive them FROM Mexico! We send and receive because we are very close neighbors. Because it is in the mutual interest of both countries, because it is the right thing to do—economically and culturally. This reality—a 2,000 mile long border, facilitating trade between our two fine countries – vs the reality of Trump’s threat to “close the southern border,” if he does not get billions for his noxious “wall.”

Oh, wait; he now calls the wall an” aesthetically pleasing slat iron fence;” sorry, my mistake. And this reality– an over 200 year old history as neighbors, facilitating two-way cultural and economic exchanges—vs Trump’s verbal and policy insults. Now, the pain is 30 percent taxes on automobiles, ten percent taxes on aluminum; earlier, Trump’s chant and that of his followers was “Mexicans are rapists.” Who, better than Trump can add insult to injury?

A wall? When immigration from Mexico is “negative” (more Mexicans flowing back to Mexico than coming in from Mexico)? Close the border? When Texas and the Rio Grande Valley depend so much on Mexican trade? Foolishness. Spurn Mexico? the second largest economy in Latin America (World Bank) and allow Russia and China to fill our shoes? My dear old Grandmother would have called that “cutting off your nose to spite your face.”

The Mexican economy itself is doing relatively well. Retail sales and employment are “up.” The Federal Reserve Bank, Dallas, predicted a two percent growth rate for the economy in 2019 (Sergio Chapa, Houston Chronicle, 24 Dec 18). The IMF calculates a 2.7 growth. True, crude oil exports are down and industrial production has diminished—temporarily, in part, due to Trump’s tariffs.

But manufacturing still accounts for 88 percent of Mexico’s exports and Mexico is still the U.S.’s third trading partner (we are their first). Like siblings, when one sister nation “catches cold,” the other “sneezes.” (Yes, from my Grandmother, again.) In fairness, part of their economic picture includes “uncertainty,” not only caused by the nativist (read: racist) attitudes and confusing proposals of the U.S. President but also by concerns with their own, non-traditional President, Andrés Manuél López Obrador (AMLO), who took the reins of government December 1st.

AMLO was, at one time, a possible “Mexican Trump,” given his former tendency to overstate the “facts.” His positions are now considered more stable by many moderate academic and business observers. He has quickly modified several previous policies and appointed a professional, experienced, mainstream cabinet. The truth is there isn’t time—in his one, six year term – or resources for most of his former rhetoric to be transformed into working policy; e.g., cutting the federal work force by half, massive aid to the poor.

One may ask, is our nation doing much better? Is our president more reliable? Presently, the government of most powerful nation on this planet is lamentably “closed until further notice.” Border Patrol and other federal workers remain unpaid during the holidays. Neither does AMLO face, as does Trump, allegations of collusion with a foreign government or obstructions of justice.

Some officials in our state as well as federal government are pushing back. Texas State Representative, Bobby Guerra (McAllen), meeting with a counterpart from the neighboring Mexican state of Tamaulipas, Luis Cantu, calls for “tighter” relations between the Rio Grande Valley and Mexico (Rio Grande Guardian, 23 Dec 18).  Few U.S. border officials support a “wall” (though all are concerned with improving security). Few approve the sickening sight of Border Patrol agents destroying water sources for immigrants, left by well-meaning Good Samaritans along the river or in the desert.

But, to its credit, Mexico has a “secret weapon.” Tourism is up three percent, over 40 million tourists visiting per year. Mexico is now the seventh most visited country in the world, the average tourist spending over $213 a day. Tourism runs both ways. Mexicans spend on this side, as well; seen the mall in McAllen recently? Mexico offers to the U.S. and the world 26 UNESCO declared “world heritage” sites. See them before they are overrun, as are Barcelona, Venice, even Machu Picchu. Go to San Miguel or maybe just go to Progreso. Buy something (haircut? only $5; liquor? almost anywhere; lunch at Arturos, with mole poblano or trucha, $6.95). Go help their economy, have fun. (Turnstile fees to double after January 1st.) They repay us in so many ways: working, buying, spending, paying great quantities of sales taxes on this side.

Inside Mexico, infrastructure for tourism (roads, hotels) is growing, together with an increase in public/private projects (The Baja Post, 14 Feb 18). Investment could and should increase, with emphasis on small and medium businesses. The large, luxury hotels are doing just fine, thank you. Medical tourism is increasing. Treatment and services of new procedures are often available only in Mexico. Many in need here don’t want to wait for FDA approval and Mexican doctors are experienced and professional (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 14 Jan 17).

In other words “Canada, Mexico and the U.S. Need Each Other” and “growth of the U.S. economy is linked to the global marketplace” (George Bush Institute). Success stories such as the San Diego-Tijuana “Cross Border Xpress” or “Sky-Bridge,” a public/private project, ferrying goods and people across the border, is one important example (Michael Camañez, et. al, Spring 2016).

Sure, “close the border” and ruin success? I am reminded of the Biblical admonishment, “physician, heal thyself” (Luke, 4:23, my Grandmother’s King James version). Observers and experts across the globe agree with Professor Donald Klinger, University of Colorado; he warns “less global confidence in Trump leads to lower ratings for the U.S.,” (“Trump Against the World,”, Journal of Public Integrity, vol. 20, 2018). How do we begin to “heal?”

Many others (too slowly?) are beginning to connect the dots. Some, with legal power, are pushing back. A District of Columbia judge, Emmet Sullivan, challenged some of Trump’s anti-immigration policies, calling them a “violation of both immigration law and administrative law” (Reuters, 18 Dec 18). Mexican legislators have called on the U.S. to “end inhumane and criminal actions of separating immigrant families.” U.S. religious groups also call for more humane policies.

Tensions are high, inside the U.S. and between the U.S. and Mexico. The Mexican government is considering “ending security and border immigration cooperation with the U.S.” (Christopher Woody, Business Insider, 23 Jun 18). In addition, three Central American countries have filed a protest with the Inter-American Commission, protesting violation of international amnesty agreements by the U.S. (Cathy Burke, Newsmax, 19 Nov 18).

Will the national and international pressure be enough? I am not hopeful. I haven’t given up, but Trump is in power—and I’m not, we’re not. We have some influence, but it is sparing and sporadic (during election time). Even those moments (as democratic and Democratic voters in Wisconsin and Minnesota are learning) can be short-lived. Republican legislatures and governors have passed tricky, quickie laws up there to limit the powers of their successors, elected by the majority. I see many winter visitors from those states, having a great time in Progreso. I want to approach and ask them if they approve of those unfair practices? Dare I?

But “hope springs eternal.” I think of Winston Churchill’s cry: “never, never, never give up.” I am full of clichés, but some of them provide influential teaching moments. “Feliz Año/Happy New Year” is a cliché too, but heartfelt and fiercely needed for both our great countries, the U.S. and Mexico. And be it cliché, biography, Bible, U.S./Latin American History, or simply Common Sense, (regarding U.S.-Mexican culture and economies) we need all the inspiration we can get.

IDEA: Large Leaderboard