WASHINGTON, D.C. – A delegation of leaders from the Rio Grande Valley visited Washington, D.C. on Wednesday and one of the top issues on their mind was President Trump’s plan to impose a five percent tariff on Mexican imports.

The delegation included Cameron County Commissioner David Garza, Willacy County Commissioner Edward Gonzalez, and Hidalgo County Commissioners David Fuentes and Ellie Torres. Among the people they met was U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.

“Senator Cornyn was excellent. He basically gave us a report on the tariff situation and how he might be able to navigate through that process,” said Commissioner Garza.

“He said we have a problem on the border with the influx of immigrants. He said we have to recognize that and we have to act on that.”

President Trump wants to impose the tariffs in order to force Mexico to do more to thwart undocumented immigrants from Central America crossing into the United States. Garza said Cornyn does not believe in linking trade and immigration issues.

Cameron County Commissioner David Garza

“Senator Cornyn said tariffs are not the solution. Our whole economy is dependent on trade with our neighboring countries, Mexico being one of them. Mexico is a great partner to the United States, not just Texas,” Garza said.

“We get negatively impacted because we are on the border. Imposing a tariff ends up being passed on to the people of the United States through higher prices on the products they pay. That is not the answer to solving an immigration problem.”

Garza said Cornyn was very pleased that a delegation of leaders from Mexico were due to meet with the Trump administration later in the day.

“He was happy that representatives from the Mexican government were coming to Washington. He was looking forward to that discussion. He said they were coming to work through a process through which everybody can benefit,” Garza said.

“We want to avoid having a negative impact on our economy. We were extremely pleased with Senator Cornyn’s thoughts and the way he approached the issue. He thinks they can work out a solution that will not negatively impact the state of Texas and the nation. He was very positive.”

The Valley delegation also included consultant Hollis Rutledge, Commissioner Cynthia Leon of the Texas Department of Public Safety, and Cameron County Administrator David Garcia.

Garza said the main reason for going to Washington was to visit with the Department of Housing & Urban Development to find out why disaster relief funds have to the Valley. 

(Editor’s Note: The Rio Grande Guardian will have a separate story on flood control and disaster relief in a future edition.)

Meeting with delegation from Mexico

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, along with the U.S.-Mexico Inter-parliamentary group, met with a delegation of Mexican lawmakers to discuss the Mexico tariff issue. Cuellar chairs the IPG. 

Following the meeting, Cuellar said:

“A tariff on Mexican imports would pose a threat to our economic interests. Mexico is our number one trading partner, composing 15 percent of our country’s total trade. A tariff on our largest trading partner will have significant consequences to our economy,” Cuellar said.

“The suggested five percent tariff would result in more than 117,000 job losses in Texas alone. Regardless of the President’s threat, we will continue to support our economic partnership with Mexico. As border representatives, we need to work with Congress and the Administration to increase our cooperation with Mexico and pass the USMCA for American workers and consumers.”

Cuellar added: “I want to thank the Mexican delegation, including Deputy Majority Whip of Mexico House of Representatives Mario Delgado Carrillo and Senator Hector Vasconcelos, Chairman of Foreign Affairs Committee, and the rest of the U.S.-Mexico IPG for working together to enhance our joint economic and security interests.” 

Among the IPG members present were U.S. Reps. Lou Correa and Salud Carbajal of California and Sheila Jackson Lee and Veronica Escobar of Texas.

Border Trade Alliance viewpoint

Paola Avila of the Border Trade Alliance

Meanwhile, the Border Trade Alliance on Wednesday urged the United States and Mexico to continue working cooperatively and prevent any tariffs from taking place as talks at the White House continue.

“As disappointed as the trade community is in the plan to hit our ally and largest trading partner with tariffs, we would urge the U.S. and Mexico to continue to meet in good faith and work with urgency to arrive at an agreement that will avoid the economic damage that will result if the president’s plan is ultimately implemented,” Border Trade Alliance Chair Paola Avila said. 

“Despite the president’s claim that companies will return to the U.S., new tariffs will only increase costs for U.S. manufacturers, cause higher prices for U.S. consumers, and will ultimately result in job losses and weaken overall economic competitiveness. They’re a recipe for self-imposed economic harm.”

Since 1986, the BTA has served as a grassroots, non-profit organization that provides a forum for discussion and advocacy on issues pertaining to border development and quality of life and trade in the Americas. The BTA’s membership is comprised of public and private sector stakeholders involved in cross-border trade. The group strongly opposes any new tariffs, arguing that their imposition would have a negative impact on the U.S. and Mexican economies, as well as efforts to ratify the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, the successor agreement to the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement.

“Imposing tariffs on Mexican goods not only runs completely counter to the spirit of cooperation and shared prosperity that has defined the U.S.-Mexico relationship for over two decades, but it makes the congressional ratification of the USMCA needlessly more complex,” BTA President Britton Clarke said. 

“The U.S., Mexico, and Canada have all taken preliminary steps in their respective legislative bodies to begin the process of implementing USMCA. These tariffs make that task more difficult, injecting uncertainty into a process that we remain hopeful can be completed this summer. New tariffs should be taken off the table so we can return to the necessary work of making the USMCA a reality.”