There is a dark line, that marks the delineation. Otherwise, the lone lights shining in the parking lot of the La Posada Hotel in Laredo, where the South Texas Press Convention held its annual meeting, comes from the parking lot below.
But across that line, across the Rio Grande River, lights shine, cars and buses are lined up, waiting to get into Texas. Trucks idle, bringing products for Americans.
How did I get the only hotel room with a balcony overlooking the Rio Grande River? Who knows, but it was worth just sitting out there, watching the local economy in real time.
I remember driving through this area many years ago, maybe 20 to 30 years. We always stayed at the Holiday Inn on the river whenever we spent the night. It also had easy access to the bridge heading into Mexico. We would always walk across and enjoy the food, the shops, the people.
Last week, I sat and watched the lights on the other side of the river. I sat on my balcony, drinking my white wine, looking into Mexico. I watched hundreds of cars travel across the bridge into Laredo, into the city that has the largest land port in the nation. Travel buses were lined up, patiently waiting their turn to bring people into the U.S.
Trucks come in bringing produce, products, all kinds of items that Texans and a lot of Americans really want and need. The air brakes of the trucks echo across the river.
We need this port, we need Mexico, we need to have access. Without Laredo, without this port and importation of products, we are all poorer. And Texas will feel it the worst.
Laredo processes more than $280 billion – yes, billion – in trade taxes each year. Texas has five customs districts, more than any other state, so building a wall around the United States is really hurting us, as Laredo is the No. 1 land port in all the U.S., and the third largest port in the country, behind New York and Los Angeles.
If a wall gets built and cuts off Texas from Mexico, what happens to our economy? If we keep everything in the U.S. – only built here, only grown here, what happens? We don’t have the parts we need to build every thing we need, we don’t have the food capacity or the choice we want to feed everyone here. If you say “America first,” you would probably be surprised at how differently you will have to eat. You’ll be surprised at what clothes are not on the market, at the high cost of suddenly fixing your car because parts are not available, at the high cost of purchasing a house. The list goes on and on.
Let’s face it. We need Mexico. We need the imports, the workers, and relationship.
Let’s face it. Mexico is not going away. Those people crossing the bridge every day to make purchases here are not moving away just because a wall is built. We have to work with Mexico.
I want to come back to Laredo, which is incredibly safe; I want to walk across the bridge, as I have in years past. I want to help their economy too while enjoying their food, restaurants. I want to sit again in the outdoor patios, listening to the rolling language that I don’t really understand.
Mostly, let’s face the truth about our relationship with Mexico. We need them and they need us and it’s time to tell Trump, leave our economy alone down here. Listen to the Texans, listen to the people who live on the border. You can’t fly in and stay a few hours and fix everything.
And you certainly can’t understand the situation either.