Border trade, immigration, and border security were all issues highlighted at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin this weekend. In a session called “Border Reality Check,” several mayors of Texas border cities gathered to ask questions like this one from Pete Saenz of Laredo: “What value does the border area bring to the rest of the state? And what value does a great port area bring to the United States?”
Tony Martinez, the mayor of Brownsville, claims bi-national agreements are helping to speed up commercial border crossings and open up trade. “You can’t let borders get in the way of progress,” he says. “And that’s the whole idea behind the bi-national agreement. We have to understand that Mexico is a great trading partner for us. It’s a big trading partner for us. Texas knows this more than anybody else, and this is why I’m glad we’re having this discussion.
Martinez hopes that cross-border cities solve their safety issues through teamwork. “And so the whole idea between the bi-national agreement is that we understand where Mexico is. We understand the security problems they have. We don’t feel we have the same problems. But how do we assist them? How do we help them?”
El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser agrees. He highlights reports of decreased violence in neighboring Juarez. “With El Paso being the safest city – one of the safest cities in the country over 500,000. And with Juarez really becoming a very safe city, it’s important that we continue to go out and promote as one.”
And he says one issue Juarez now is facing, has more to do with employment, than with safety. “Right now the biggest problem we have in Juarez is that there’s shortage of workers, as they continue to work in maquiladores, continue to work jobs. So people want to go to their country. They want to be in their country. So we got to work together as one unit to help educate and to help each other to grow.”
Graham Dickie contributed to this report.