Migrants vault over fence in Tijuana after tear gas launched
Editor’s note: This editorial was initially posted Nov. 27 after President Trump first threatened to close the border with Mexico. Our editorial, and its warnings about the disastrous effect closing the border would have on the Texas and U.S. economy, bears revisiting.
A largely open southern border has created a crisis.
A closed one would only create another.
The humanitarian and political disaster now erupting on our border with Mexico would only swell into an economic calamity, should President Trump’s overbroad threat to “close” the border actually come about.
We’re not even sure what the president means by it, but we’re certain of this: Whatever our political differences, Mexico is this country’s No. 3 trading partner and, more importantly to this region, Texas’ No. 1 trading partner by far. This state’s trade with Mexico is four times greater than with its second-biggest partner, Canada.
To shut that down would be a holiday-season financial catastrophe for businesses and families on both sides of a border whose crossing they rely on for their livelihoods. U.S. exports into Mexico through Texas alone exceed $97 billion annually; likewise, imports into Texas through Mexico amount to nearly $90 billion.
Each one of those transactions puts bread on the table for untold families on both sides of the border.
While it’s likely the president’s threat is a political ploy, it turns people into pawns.
For his part, the president has inherited a disaster decades in the making, made acute and wholly unmanageable by caravans of desperate Central American migrants who, in many cases, are cynically exploited by human traffickers and others with less-than-pure motives. Their unfettered entry would only promote more large-scale migrations which, it should be said, aren’t healthy for anyone.
Indeed, no less than Democrat standard-bearer Hillary Clinton said recently that, “I think Europe needs to get a handle on migration.” Don’t we as well? She blamed mass migration in Europe for the rise of right-wing populism, but in truth you don’t have to adhere to any particular political views to want order on the border. It’s not an unreasonable expectation.
Trump needs more than tear gas and threats to defuse this border crisis. Anger is not a policy — and if it is, it’s a horrid one. But so is catch-and-release, when few of those released ever show up for immigration proceedings, making a mockery of our immigration laws.
Rather, Trump needs the willing help of Mexican authorities, who should realize this standoff is doing their country no favors either. Both countries should explore what they could do for each other to unravel this knot.
In the bigger picture, it’s long past time for a meeting of the hemisphere’s functional governments to determine how to work together to prevent continued mass migration. How can the creeping crisis be managed more humanely? What and where are the conditions causing the flight, and what can the region’s stable governments do about it?
We’d invite the hemisphere’s government leaders of good will — we’re relatively sure it’s a manageable number — to visit the Texas-Mexico border to see not only the problem but the real people who continue to pay the price for the lack of a solution.