More than nine months. That’s how long the United States has been without an ambassador to Mexico.
Hard to believe, isn’t it? For more than 100 years, Mexico has been a steady ally of the United States.
In fact, as our third-largest trading partner, Mexico accounts for more than $500 billion in bilateral trade.
Not only does it rank second among U.S. export markets, Mexico is also the third-largest supplier of American imports.
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And let’s not forget the impact of U.S. foreign direct investment in Mexico, which, according to the latest Office of the United States Trade Representative data, amounts to $101 billion.
As Mexico grows and prospers, so does the United States.
But let’s not make it all about economics. At this point, we should all recognize that the Hispanic community, which is two-thirds Mexican, has become a defining feature of the changing face of America.
Major cities across the country such as Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and New York are now, if not majority Hispanic, then certainly very Hispanic.
If that weren’t enough, let’s look at the flip side of the equation. As we speak, 1 million American expatriates are permanent residents of Mexico.
That’s 1 million of our citizens who live and sometimes work far from home. Another 20 million Americans visit Mexico each year as tourists.
So then why has Roberta Jacobson waited nine months and counting to be confirmed as U.S. ambassador to Mexico?
No one disputes her qualifications. Since 2012, Jacobson has served as assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, managing and promoting U.S. foreign policy throughout Latin America.
She is more than qualified to serve as U.S. ambassador to Mexico.
But although Jacobson was nominated for the position last June and received bipartisan approval by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in November, since then there has been an indefinite delay in confirming her for this post.
The concerns of a few members of the Senate have stalled Jacobson’s confirmation.
By delaying this vote, the United States is sending a message to Mexico — we’re letting them know that we don’t value our relationship with them.
But given the crucial importance of managing our 2,000-mile-long border, as well as the commercial and cultural interests at stake, nothing could be less true.
It boils down to Cold War-era politics — in her role leading U.S. foreign policy in the Western Hemisphere, Jacobson acted according to the Obama administration’s policies and worked on normalizing relations between Cuba and the United States after a decades-long embargo.
The political games that have blocked her confirmation are unwise at best and reckless at worst. Jacobson is punished for doing her job. Americans are left hanging.
That’s why the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is working with a bipartisan coalition of senators and our 200 chambers across the country to expedite Jacobson’s confirmation.
We recognize that without a top diplomat in place, the indispensable relationship we share with our southern neighbors may stall, at a time when our mutual economic, security and cultural interests requires our bond to be stronger than ever — and we’re unwilling to let that happen.
It’s time to let Congress know that the American people expect action.
We must confirm Roberta Jacobson as our top diplomat in Mexico or risk weakening our economy and national security.
Javier Palomarez is president and CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.