A Letter to Donald Trump from Mexico: Don't Turn Our Dreams Into Nightmares

There is no aspect of Mexican life that is not going to be affected by your election.
Mexican newspapers report on Trump's victory.
Mexican newspapers report on Trump's victory.

Dear Mr. Trump,

I write to you from Mexico, where your victory has been greeted with surprise, fear, dismay and timid optimism. There is no aspect of Mexican life that is not going to be affected by your election.

This is a political earthquake for the Mexican government that will require a massive overhaul of every aspect of the relationship between our two countries. In your victory speech you said, “While we will always put America’s interests first, we will deal fairly with everyone, with everyone — all people and all other nations. We will seek common ground, not hostility; partnership, not conflict.” It’s time to bring our countries closer together, not tear them apart.

President Enrique Peña Nieto tweeted congratulations to the United States for its electoral process, and the foreign minister declared, “the campaign is over, a new chapter is beginning in the bilateral relationship.” She also stated that a wall along the U.S. border is “not in the picture” and that Mexico would not pay for it. Meanwhile, the Mexican peso plunged more than 10 percent to a new low.

Bring the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico back to the fore and make it a priority.

Mr. Trump, your victory will impact our 2018 presidential elections. Until November 8, the frontrunner, Margarita Zavala, was banking on riding the wave of a woman’s election to the U.S. presidency, and she publicly supported Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who was defeated for the presidency in both previous elections and is second in the polls, had a reassuring message. He said there’s no reason to worry about Trump’s victory and migratory problems can be resolved amicably, without recourse to a wall. Last month opposition party lawmakers compared him to Trump, calling them “as alike as two drops of water.”

Don’t forget, Mr. Trump, that thanks to Mexico’s invitation, your visit to Mexico and the televised press conference on August 31 with President Peña Nieto was the first time you were given presidential treatment outside your country. Luis Videgaray, the architect of that visit, was trounced by public opinion and obliged to resign from his post as treasury secretary. Videgaray’s chances of running for governor of the State of Mexico have now suddenly revived, and there’s even talk of a presidential candidacy for the sole Mexican politician who allied himself with you.

In the run-up to the election, cartoonists and commentators in Mexico went haywire, calling you a fascist and comparing you to Hitler, Mussolini and Berlusconi. They were enraged by your remarks about Mexicans. Last June, you said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Trump on July 23, 2015, in Laredo, Texas, not long after his comment about some Mexican immigrants being "rapists."
Trump on July 23, 2015, in Laredo, Texas, not long after his comment about some Mexican immigrants being "rapists."

As you get to know us better, you will find that Mexicans and Americans share many values, among them family, hard work, aspirations, a desire for justice and strongly held religious convictions. Don’t judge or penalize 122 million people for the behavior of a few thousand criminals.

Mr. Trump, do not turn the dream of young immigrants to the U.S. into a nightmare. Your ascent to the presidency is a political version of the prototypical American Horatio Alger myth. The “dreamers” are inspired by that same myth. Don’t echo the Queen of Hearts by shrieking, “off with their heads.”

During the debate between George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ross Perot on October 15, 1992, three weeks before the election and 14 months before the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect, Perot famously declared: “If you’re paying $12, $13, $14 an hour for factory workers and you can move your factory South of the border, pay a dollar an hour for labor, hire young … pay a dollar an hour for your labor, have no health care … have no environmental controls, no pollution controls and no retirement, and you don’t care about anything but making money, there will be a giant sucking sound going south.”

Mr. Trump, the time has come to make a new deal with Mexico, and you can do it.

Bush, your fellow Republican, was negotiating NAFTA with Mexico and Canada, and in the debate he said, “we want to have more jobs here and the way to do that is to increase our exports … I believe in free and fair trade.”

But you have called NAFTA “the worst trade deal in history.” More than 80 percent of Mexico’s exports are to the United States, and 7 million jobs in Mexico depend on NAFTA. In 2015, Mexico exported $316 billion worth of goods and services to the United States. Mexico is America’s third largest trading partner in goods, and Mexico is America’s second largest export market for goods. Millions of jobs in the U.S. depend on this trade.

If you follow through with your threat to demolish NAFTA, it will be a devastating blow to Mexico’s economy. Does the U.S. want a neighbor in turmoil, in the grips of a recession where unemployment will soar and pressure to go north will build up more than ever? Must getting America’s jobs back mean taking them away from Mexicans?

Remittances sent home have replaced oil as Mexico’s main source of foreign income, due to the reduction in the volume of oil being exported and the huge drop in oil prices. Your plan to hold remittances for ransom until Mexico forks over money to pay for the wall would sink the economy, but I doubt that it’s legal.

A visitor walks past a cartoon of a Mexican wrapped in a taco sticking his tongue out at President-elect Donald Trump in Mexi
A visitor walks past a cartoon of a Mexican wrapped in a taco sticking his tongue out at President-elect Donald Trump in Mexico City on Nov. 10.

As you know, a barrier consisting of fences and walls, punctuated by many large gaps and “virtual” fences, already spans about 650 of the 1,989 miles of the border running between Mexico and the United States, crossing cities and deserts from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. Its main purpose is to stop illegal immigrants and drugs from entering the U.S. However, according to the DEA, Mexican cartels move most of their drugs across the border as freight or concealed in vehicles and it’s almost impossible to carry out thorough inspections. The best “wall” is economic prosperity on both sides of the border, with no need for desperate men, women and children to risk everything to reach the land of opportunity.

The present wall also interferes with habitat connectivity and free movement of animal species such as the Mexican wolf, the desert bighorn sheep, the Sonoran pronghorn antelope, the ocelot and the American black bear, whose populations know nothing about borders, and it destroys the integrity of the Sonoran Desert, which is home to pumas, jaguars, porcupines, badgers, bison, prairie dogs, javelinas, jaguarundis and foxes, and hundreds of plant species, including the saguaro cactus. This marvel of nature is one of the most important desert ecosystems in the world, but it is also a place where hundreds perish each year trying to enter your country. It’s time for comprehensive immigration reform that will benefit rather than penalize people on both sides of the border. Mr. Trump, recognize the vital place of immigrants in U.S. society today and ensure they are treated decently and as befits your country’s democratic principles.

And speaking of borders, how are you going to deal with the upcoming expiration of the crucial water rights agreement that shares the water of the Colorado River between Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming ― and Mexico ― and the treaty now being negotiated by the International Boundary and Water Commission. Do you know that available river water is way down because of lengthy, multiyear drought?

The best 'wall' is economic prosperity on both sides of the border.

Mr. Trump, whatever happens in your country has global repercussions. It is hoped that in your inaugural address you will admit that the science indeed identifies climate change and our role in causing it. Instead of pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, as you have threatened to do, you should promise that the U.S. will accept responsibility for its share of carbon emissions and embark on a revolution in energy policy. Remember, what’s good for the planet is good for the U.S.

You might begin by replacing the existing barriers between the U.S. and Mexico with a wall of solar panels stretching across the border to provide both nations with energy from the sun. Now that would be a truly beautiful wall, and I am sure my country would be happy to pay for half.

In February 2001, George W. Bush chose Mexico for his first trip abroad and met with President Vicente Fox at his ranch in Guanajuato. At a press conference, Bush said, “Our nations are bound together by ties of history, family, values, commerce and culture. Today, these ties give us an unprecedented opportunity. We have a chance to build a partnership that will improve the lives of citizens in both countries.” They acknowledged that migration is one of the ties that most closely binds our countries together, although they should have added that it is one of the conflicts that separates them the most, too.

The Colorado River in Black Canyon south of Hoover Dam, on April 14, 2013, near Willow Beach, Arizona.
The Colorado River in Black Canyon south of Hoover Dam, on April 14, 2013, near Willow Beach, Arizona.

After 9/11, the United States put Mexico on the back burner. Mr. Trump, bring this relationship back to the fore and make it a priority.

Our history and destinies are entwined in many ways. Migration plays a huge role in our shared reality. In the early 1990s I proposed the monarch butterfly as the symbol of NAFTA, for nothing embodies the need for North American environmental cooperation more than this fragile butterfly’s spectacular annual migration across Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. Gray whales, which migrate between Baja California and Alaska, are endangered by disturbances in the Bering Sea, where they feed during the summer. Mr. Trump, safeguard the gray whales, as well as polar bears, caribou, migratory birds and the entire region’s wealth of animal life by opposing more oil drilling in the Bering Sea. Do not allow opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to extraction of crude oil and natural gas. Don’t squander unique and irreplaceable ecosystems to get inconsequential amounts of a fossil fuel that will not solve your country’s energy needs. Do not heed the siren song of “drill, baby, drill.”

To demonstrate your commitment to combatting the drug cartels, whose activities in Mexico and the United States are lethal for our citizens and yours, you should put a stop to the shameful trafficking of weapons into Mexico by strengthening the enforcement of laws that control their export from your country to ours. That would show your willingness to support our government’s fight against the violent organized crime that is overwhelming us with an epidemic of feminicides, kidnappings, brutal murders and trafficking of adults and children.

 

Do not heed the siren song of 'drill, baby, drill.'

There has been a significant Mexican presence in what is now the U.S. at three historical moments: when a large population was living there at the time Mexican territories were annexed in 1848; when people fled the violence of the Mexican Revolution in 1910; and during the modern, ongoing economic migration. Undocumented aliens don’t have an easy time of it. Yet despite the present barrier, hundreds of thousands of Mexicans ― and Central and South Americans ― make the crossing every year in search of a job and a better future. The swelling of their numbers not only means a bonanza for the polleros (people smugglers) but also lays bare the impoverishment of our countryside and the lack of job opportunities in our towns and cities.

We all know that Mexico must change. So much of its wealth from natural resources and the hard work of its population is skimmed off by corrupt politicians and greedy business leaders. We must root out corruption and impunity, demand more accountability and drastically reduce the poverty rate of around 45 percent by correcting the grotesque income inequality that keeps nearly half the population living precariously and in need.

Mr. Trump, with Republicans in control of the presidency, the House, the Senate and a majority of state governors, you will wield tremendous power. The time has come to make a new deal with Mexico, and you can do it. Now that would be an act of historic justice.

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