August 28, 2013 – U.S. and Mexican officials have been meeting in several locations to discuss the impact of possible immigration legislation and its effects on the border and manufacturing in Mexico. President Barack Obama and Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto met in Mexico at the beginning of May to discuss several issues affecting both nations. These included trade, mutual economic ties, security, the drug war and immigration.
Diplomats, politicians and business leaders met in El Paso, Texas on August 8 to discuss trade between the two countries. The panel was organized by Council of the Americas Chairman John Negroponte. Called the U.S.-Mexico Competitiveness Agenda Conference, the meeting was convened as both countries focused on the commerce and immigration issues as well as on their mutual relationship. The panel was hosted by the University of Texas at El Paso, located just over the border from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
The meetings and discussions have been taking place as both countries look for solutions that will allow Mexico to continue manufacturing and exporting its goods to the U.S. even as proposed immigration reform and border security are being discussed in Washington, D.C.
Mexico manufacturing plants, also known as maquiladoras in Mexico, are benefiting from the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. Trade has risen to record levels even as the numbers of immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border have dropped to record lows.
Politicians and officials in both countries are aware that any future changes in immigration and the security of the border will have an effect on Mexican commerce. Currently, 70 percent of bilateral commerce – that crosses the border both ways – is worth approximately $1 million per minute. Goods shipped over the border come through the border on trucks. As of 2012, trade almost totaled $500 billion, covering both imports and exports, making beneficial economic relations a strong focal point. In addition, over 1 million Mexican citizens legally cross the U.S.-Mexico border daily. Mexican officials, aware of the potential impact of tighter border security and immigration reform, have maintained what has been called a “permanent dialogue” with U.S. lawmakers.
Mexican officials, as well as some U.S. lawmakers, want to see changes to the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill that would streamline the inspection of goods crossing the border into the U.S. As currently written, the reform bill proposes increasing the length of the border fence by nearly 700 miles, as well as increasing the numbers of Border Patrol agents.
El Paso, Texas was selected by the federal government to participate in a pilot program that would enable either private or government parties to take on the cost of increasing the numbers of Customs and Border Patrol agents in order to increase staffing of all border checkpoint lanes during peak crossing times. Current wait times for vehicles can run to several hours. El Paso city officials have also decided that increasing the toll fees would help defray the costs of the added agents.