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Ground Truth Briefing | The Consequences of a US-Mexico Border Shutdown

In this Ground Truth Briefing, experts weighed in on the potential consequences of a shutdown of the US-Mexico border.

Date & Time

Apr. 8, 2019
9:30am – 10:30am ET


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Over the past week, President Trump has renewed threats to shut down the US-Mexico border. This comes at a time when Mexico is making new efforts to lower the number of people entering the United States through Mexico. In recent months, there has been a dramatic surge in the number of migrants crossing into the United States at or between official ports of entry on the southern border.

Although proposed as a way to curb migration to the United States and toughen border security, a border closure would have far-reaching effects, including on trade, and could lead to a serious strain on the US economy. Mexico is the United States’ third-largest trading partner, and closing the border could potentially threaten 5 million US jobs.

In this Ground Truth Briefing, experts weighed in on the potential consequences of a shutdown of the US-Mexico border.

Selected Quotes

Christopher Wilson

“As the number of migrants from Central America has surged in recent months, CBP [customs and border protection] has begun redeploying first border patrol agents and then CBP officers from Office of  Field Operations who manage the ports of entry to do migrant processing. This manifests in the closure of some lanes of traffic at many ports of entry, and the closing of others for certain days of the week. Each of these have caused major backups in traffic along the US-Mexico border, commercial and individual. President Trump has also threatened to close the border entirely at times during the past week, including most recently in a tweet approximately 12 hours ago.” 

Tony Wayne  

“What would the United States say if Mexico threatened to put a 25% tariff on US corn, soy or pork because Americans are buying 20-30 billion dollars’ worth of drugs and fueling Mexican organized crime? I don’t think we’d react positively to that. The real solution here is to make that hard work happen between governments to find solutions to these difficult problem of migrants and the difficult problems of the drugs, the arms and the money that are illegally crossing in both directions.”

Pete Saenz

“What is crucial for us is the visitors, the tourists. It’s been reported by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, the El Paso branch, that approximately 50% of all retail sales before this year in the city of Laredo were attributed to Mexican visitors, and the strongest seasons are the Christmas holidays and Semana Santa, and guess what, Semana Santa is next week or so. So it’s going to impact us not only in the retail industry but the hospitality industry also.”

“Just in Laredo alone, the US treasury receives over 350 million a year just on duties and whatever fees they charge and so our nation is getting hurt by that angle as well.”

“We claim success on our side, but it’s because the other side is also having success and that means cooperation. Cooperation in terms of just working together well. So this is just us here at the border, but of course that extends further into Mexican policy and US Policy as well, so I understand there are issues, we all understand those issues, but trade and commerce is really the backbone of our nation, of both nations frankly.”

Glenn Hamer

“The importance of our trade with Mexico, from the perspective of Arizona, can’t be overstated. Mexico is Arizona’s largest trading partner, times about four, it’s our largest export market by a lot. It’s our largest source of international visitors. In fact, our friends from Mexico spend about 7.5 million dollars every single day at our shops, at our hotels, eating at our restaurants. For our border community, for a number of these towns, Mexican visitors represent 50, 60, even 70% of sales tax received. It is a vital part of those cities’ economy.”

“It’s not just the threat of a shut down—it’s that right now we are experiencing a slowdown and we are experiencing a shutdown in certain services. So this isn’t something that’s a year out, this is something that we are feeling on the ground today. In fact, since the end of March, we had the commercial trucking services shutdown in our busiest port in Nogales. And that’s just not an impact on the state’s economy, but for all of those who enjoy fresh, delicious produce from Mexico—our consumers across the country are going to feel the pain in terms of higher prices and less produce.”

“Our border security is enhanced if we have stronger commercial ties with Mexico. We absolutely need a partnership with Mexico when it comes to dealing with the issues in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The closer we’re together economically, the closer we’re together on a governmental side, the more secure the people of the United States and Arizona will be."

Paola Avila 

“San Diego loses 2.9 billion dollars a year, or 40 thousand jobs, and that’s just here regionally… Across the nation its 7.2 billion dollars just from border delays, not to mention border closures. Those delays were based on two hour wait times, the trade and travel that the border wait times then discouraged and the economic loss of productivity of workers, truck drivers and goods sitting, idling for two hours at the border.”

“30 days of this doubling of wait times is hugely detrimental, and again we don’t need to try and run numbers to figure out what the impact might have, we already know what that impact has had on our border regions. For years we’ve been advocating for increase in staffing, increase in lanes and efficiency at our ports of entry, because we know and we’ve seen firsthand what that economic loss has resulted in.”

“Everyone here on the panel, we’re located in different states but we all know each other well. We really have come together, it’s been an opportunity and we must continue doing so. The fact that a threat of a border closure has been put off a year does not mean we rest on our laurels. We’re moving twice as fast now in our advocacy and our outreach to tell the story and make sure that everyone across the country and in Mexico understand the importance of this relationship.”

Hosted By

Mexico Institute

The Mexico Institute seeks to improve understanding, communication, and cooperation between Mexico and the United States by promoting original research, encouraging public discussion, and proposing policy options for enhancing the bilateral relationship. A binational Advisory Board, chaired by Luis Téllez and Earl Anthony Wayne, oversees the work of the Mexico Institute.   Read more

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