What is Mexico to us?
We ask for a simple reason. As of late, our neighbor to the south has come in for quite a drubbing. President Donald Trump accused it of allowing illegal drugs and migrants to flow up from Central America and into the United States. He specifically took issue with a "caravan" of immigrants traveling across Mexico with plans to seek asylum in the U.S. He also took steps to send troops to the border. And he said NAFTA would be "in play."
It is responsibility of every president to serve the interests of the United States. So it is worth asking here, is Mexico actually acting counter to American interests? Or is it instead an ally?
The truth is that our southern neighbor has long been at war with a violent drug industry that has bales of cash because the drug lords sell to Americans. Mexico also works to secure its southern border, just as the U.S. does, as violence in Central America propels people northward.
The hard work Mexican officials do every day in these arenas should be celebrated in the U.S., not chastised. Trump might even get more of what he wants if he helped Mexico with these challenges rather firing off accusatory tweets.
The North American Free Trade Agreement is another hot-button issue, of course. Currently, our countries are immersed in detailed negotiations about what NAFTA will look like. But here's one top line often ignored. One hope for NAFTA was that it would help lift the Mexican economy and thereby obviate one reason many immigrants come to the United States. When there is economic opportunity at home, there is no reason to seek it abroad.
And as it turns out, immigration from Mexico to the United States has been falling for years, long before Trump's tough talk on the border. In the final years of the Obama administration, net immigration from Mexico fell below zero. In other words, more people of Mexican origin left the United States than came to this country from Mexico.
One thing to draw from that stat is that by boosting Mexico's economy, we also boost our own border security.
Mexicans go to the polls to elect a new president on July 1, an election that is likely to be the most pivotal in that country since 2000 when voters ended the 71-year rule of the PRI party. So right now what's needed is an approach that will provide stability to Mexican officials engaged in the work critical to our efforts on border security, trade and illegal drugs.
Instead, the president focused a lot of attention on things like that caravan of asylum seekers. We would note that it was never really a threat because U.S. border agents are adept at handling asylum seekers, including the ones that get turned down. But then the real issue at play here is our relationship with Mexico.
To us, our southern neighbor is a critical ally in many of the challenges both nations face.