Gov. Greg Abbott plans a much-needed trip to Mexico over the Labor Day weekend to help solidify cross-border relations and clear the air about controversial issues concerning immigration. The last time a Texas governor ventured to Mexico was 2007 — far too long for neighbors whose annual trade exceeds $200 billion.
A top issue on the table is the effort by Abbott and his predecessor, Rick Perry, to amass Texas National Guard soldiers and Department of Public Safety troopers at the Mexican border. President Enrique Peña Nieto has publicly criticized such moves as unnecessary and counterproductive.
“I think it’s reprehensible. It is an attack on good relations and neighborliness,” Peña Nieto told the Mexican daily El Universal shortly after Perry announced the border deployments a year ago. Perry’s spokeswoman shot back that Mexico should find ways to cooperate rather than bash Texas’ efforts to improve border security.
At the time, tens of thousands of migrant families from Central America were flooding into Texas, with little apparent effort by Mexico to stop them. But the sharp back-and-forth between the two leaders served only to sour relations further.
Abbott deserves praise for recognizing the need for diplomacy and bridge-building with this trip. Mexico is this state’s largest export market. About 300,000 Texas jobs are linked to cross-border commerce. Both sides should use this opportunity to listen and learn rather than allow an atmosphere of mistrust to grow.
Substantive issues remain to be hammered out. For example, Mexico is protesting Texas’ challenge of the validity of an identification card, known as the matrícula consular, used by immigrant parents when seeking state-issued birth certificates. Texas says the matrícula is not a secure form of ID. Immigrant parents of U.S.-born children have sued the state in federal court, saying denial of birth certificates on this basis violates their children’s constitutional rights.
Abbott needs to specify exactly what security problems exist with the matrícula and outline how Mexican officials can fix it.
For its part, Mexico should use this trip to clarify what’s really happening with illegal immigration. Net Mexican migration has actually been declining for years. In 2013, China and India accounted for more undocumented-migrant arrivals than those from Mexico, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report.
Peña Nieto also should clarify, as Foreign Minister José Antonio Meade did during a trip to Texas in July, how Mexico is cooperating with U.S. authorities to help stem the flow of migrants.
Instead of allowing politicians like GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump to continue distorting the facts, Abbott and Peña Nieto should use this trip to correct the record, ratchet back the rhetoric, and restore a more productive bilateral relationship.