At the US-Mexico Border, Many Depend on Trade

31 July, 2016

Immigration and border security are two major issues in the United States' presidential election campaign.

The candidates of the two main parties have voiced different ideas about border security.

The Republican Party's candidate, Donald Trump, has proposed to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party's nominee, has taken aim at that proposal.

President Barack Obama and Mexican President Enrique Pe<I>&#</i>241;a Nieto (L) speak at the White House in Washington, July 22, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
President Barack Obama and Mexican President Enrique Pe&#241;a Nieto (L) speak at the White House in Washington, July 22, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

On July 22, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, at the White House. The idea was to publicize the good relations between the two countries.

Americans living near the Mexican border have as many different views as those voiced at the recent U.S. political conventions.

Some want to continue good relations with Mexico. They want to keep the boundary area secure. They also want to increase business with their neighbors on the other side of the border.

For example, goods and people cross between Nogales, Mexico, and the U.S. city of Nogales, Arizona, at the new Mariposa inland port.

Many Mexicans with visas pass through the crossing station to buy goods or work on the U.S. side. There is a long wait on both sides of the line, and a large barrier has been built along the border there.

The Reverend Randy Mayer is a migrant rights activist. He says many Mexicans decide to stay in Mexico when they see the crossing.

"What happens here along the border is that commerce and business is almost stopped, and what should be a multi-billion dollar industry is actually suffering."

Cross-border commerce continues to help Nogales and also the city of Tucson, Arizona, which is about 100 kilometers to the north.

Mike Varney is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Tucson Metro Chamber of Commerce. He supports a balance between border security and commerce.

"We want to keep bad people and bad things out of our country, but at the same time, we don't want to put the brakes on cross-border trade..."

Varney points out that Mexicans seem to add a lot to the local economy.

"Mexican citizens come to the Tucson area and spend about a billion dollars a year in our stores and our hotels, buying all kinds of services and products here."

However, Varney says companies that do business across the border are even more important. These include companies that open headquarters or special offices in Tucson to direct cross-border manufacturing projects.

Import-export businesses also are important to the area's economy.

Varney is frustrated by the way the border issues is discussed in national news stories.

"Economic expansion and job growth just doesn't have the sizzle that a drug bust does, but obviously we cherish the international trade that we enjoy here in Arizona, and we want to do everything we can to expand that..."

Many Arizonans blame illegal immigration for suppressing wages in the United States. And they say illegal immigrants increase education and health care costs, and violent crime.

Voters in Arizona have supported proposals to limit immigration. But Varney notes that business leaders have lobbied for less restrictive measures.

"It's a mix of politics; it's a mix of trade and economy; it's a mix of international relations, so it is a complicated recipe and we need to pay attention to all the ingredients that go into that recipe."

He says there are even more possibilities for bilateral trade and commerce once other border crossing stations are completed and fully operational.

Mexico is America's third largest trade partner. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative says trade between the two countries is valued at more than $580 dollars.

Mexico is currently the second largest export market for U.S. goods and services.

I'm Mario Ritter.

VOA correspondent Greg Flakus reported this story from Tucson, Arizona. Mario Ritter adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

counterpart – n. one of two people with the same position or job, but who are from another government, group or business

commerce – n. business, the exchange of goods and services

frustrated – adj. blocked from reaching a goal, discouraged

lobby – v. to make an effort to influence the government to make a decision to support an industry, company, or movement

recipe – n. a set of directions to make something, often food