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The U.S. Election: A View From the Southern Border

The World Policy blog is hosting a weekly series of articles featuring global perspectives on the U.S. presidential election, the effects of which extend beyond partisanship and beyond our borders. Read previous articles addressing U.S.-African trade, similarities between the Trump and Brexit campaigns, and U.S.-Turkish relations. Stay tuned for commentary from Israel, France, Canada, and more!

By Melissa Martinez Larrea

The most important question regarding the U.S. in Mexico today is: Is he really going to win? He is Donald Trump. For months, pundits, preachers, and politicians all failed to call him out as a serious candidate—but, who would now dare to ignore him?

For the time being, there is no clear answer to the question, which has been on the minds of millions of Mexicans on both sides of the border. As the presumptive Republican nominee, Trump might just have a chance.

The second most important question for Mexicans is: Will he really build that wall? Will he force the Mexican government to build it? There is certainty in this answer, at least—obviously no, he will not. However, it is rather surprising how the media is still playing into the plan and continues to ask Mexican officials, past and present, if the Mexican government will finance the wall. Fareed Zakaria joined the list last weekend when he brought up the topic during his interview with Mexican President Peña Nieto after the North American Leaders' Summit. There are few to zero circumstances under which Mexico would build the wall, and not a serious one comes to mind.  

The Mexican government has invested extensive resources, together with the U.S., to modernize the 58 points of entry along the 2,000-mile shared border. The improved border infrastructure will make trade more efficient, and minimize both crossing times and economic losses. This joint effort has required an extensive amount of coordination between both countries at the local, state, and federal levels. A successful example of U.S.-Mexico cooperation is the Cross Border Xpress pedestrian bridge, a unique bilateral public-private partnership. This project benefits over 2 million passengers per year traveling in the Tijuana-San Diego border region and should serve as model for cooperation moving forward.

The third question on Mexicans' minds: Will he deport the millions of Mexicans in the U.S.? No—there will not be an Operation Wetback 2.0. In order to remove the 11.3 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. in the following four years, the president would have to deport at least 2.8 million people per year—that is 2.4 million more a year than President Obama's already record-breaking figure.

According to, it would cost America $600 billion in federal spending to follow through with Trump's mass deportation proposal. California alone would lose $301 billion in economic activity if irregular immigrants in the state were to be removed. The losses would most certainly surpass any benefits one could see from this situation. 

Is the damage Trump has done to the Mexican and Mexican-American community in the U.S. irreparable? His proposals have clearly set off an anti-immigration sentiment that must be fought back. Ultimately, it was Trump who opened the door for comment, but the Mexican government is entitled to exercise its right to reply and it must continue countering Trump’s proposals with accurate information. Yet, it is not only the government’s responsibility, but also the responsibility of Mexicans abroad and at home, political and social allies, and the plethora of actors who benefit daily from commercial relations that yield over half a trillion dollars annually.

Mexico has a history of working hand-in-hand with the U.S., regardless of which party is in power. The bilateral relationship is so crucial to both that it transcends any political juncture. Mexico should be granted the appropriate importance on both the U.S. domestic and foreign agenda. Mexico and the United States need to address immigration as a regional matter, including Central America. If both countries want to reap the benefits of migration, this should once again become a non-partisan issue. 



Melissa Martínez Larrea is an advisor to the Mexican Foreign Minister. She holds a Master in International Affairs from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and a B.A. in Political Science and International Relations from the Center for Economic Research and Teaching in Mexico. 

[Photo courtesy of Esparta Palma]


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