Scott Ball / Rivard Report
For a region closely tied to Mexico in culture, commerce, and trade, President Donald Trump's recent executive orders on immigration and a proposed 20% import tax on Mexican goods could upend a pivotal bilateral relationship and hit San Antonians squarely in the wallet. Trump's additional order to increase border patrol officers and a promise to renegotiate NAFTA has only added more uncertainty.
This week, local elected officials have spoken out on the policies, both new and proposed, after Consul General of Mexico in San Antonio Héctor Velasco Monroy urged more local leaders in San Antonio and Washington to make themselves heard.
"A tariff on Mexican imports would hurt every San Antonian through higher prices on everything from avocados to clothing to televisions," Mayor Ivy Taylor said Monday. "Our manufacturers that rely on parts from Mexico to make their products would feel the pain, too. Worse, the resulting trade war would greatly increase the damage to our economy and cost us jobs."
Mexico is the nation's second-largest trading partner. Taylor cited International Trade Administration data showing that sales to Mexico made up one quarter of San Antonio's $16 billion in exports in 2015. According to experts, the tariff would have an extraordinary toll on consumers on both sides of the border – and especially Texas. Some specific products that could become more costly as a result of a tariff include crude oil sold to Valero, auto parts that end up on Toyota trucks, and popular products at H-E-B stores such as vegetables, fruit, and beer.
"Of course, we’re more than just customers for one another’s goods and services," Taylor added. "We share deep cultural and historical ties with Mexico, which make the current environment of uncertainty all the more troubling."
On Monday, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto released a statement to announce that he is channeling around $500 million to Mexican consulates in the U.S. to reinforce the protection, freedom, and rights of Mexican nationals. In addition, Peña Nieto thanked all the voices around the world that have expressed solidarity with Mexico.
Councilman Ron Nirenberg (D8) and Bexar County Democratic Party Chairman Manuel Medina, who are running to unseat Taylor, also agreed on the negative impact of the proposed tariff.
"We in San Antonio benefit so much from our partners in Mexico and other global communities – and particularly through NAFTA," Nirenberg said. "What we need to do is continue to involve ourselves with our global partners, our Mexican business associations like the Asociación de Empresarios Mexicanos, and work together to express the value that we bring."
Nirenberg added that it's important to react to policy and not rhetoric, especially after such a divisive national election, but he did say the new administration's stated trade agenda is concerning.
"The truth is, the vast majority – upwards of 80% of GDP growth over the last 6-7 years in San Antonio – was from foreign direct investment and trade export-import activity," he said. "So if we start to posture ourselves in an isolationist way with our global partners, it's going to cost us jobs and quality of life."
Medina expressed hope that the proposed tax will encounter enough opposition from business constituencies that the new administration will change course.
"I agree with Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff in that it's a tax for the people of San Antonio," he told the Rivard Report on Friday. "All the companies that supported Trump, the chambers of commerce, and the agriculture industry are all against this proposal and hopefully the president will hear the voice of the people."
District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño said one positive stemming from Trump's executive orders for an immigration crackdown and construction of a border wall has been that local residents have actively protested their opposition to the policies.
"Given the makeup of our city and our proximity to Mexico, many San Antonians have family and friends who are directly impacted by the new immigration policy," Treviño said. "These hateful policies have empowered citizens to peacefully assemble and protest to demonstrate that our country will not stand for bigotry and ignorance."
Treviño called the Trump administration's executive order "discriminatory policies under the guise of national security" that are leaving many immigrants and refugees on the outside looking in. Community members are organizing a "no ban no wall" march for Saturday, Feb. 18, to protest plans for the border wall and immigration ban for seven predominantly Muslim countries.
Treviño is working with the City to examine policies related to peaceful demonstrations at the airport and other places to ensure that community voices can be heard.
"... I will work to promote thoughtful communications with Mexico through the Consulate General’s Office and others as well," Treviño added. "The collective voice and will of the people has resulted in better governance since the birth of the United States, and our voices will prevail again.”
Some other officials, such as Councilwomen Rebecca Viagran (D3) and Shirley Gonzales (D5) responded to community worries regarding the executive actions on immigration.
"The executive actions taken by the new administration in recent days only scapegoat men, women, and children who contribute so much to our city and country," Viagran stated in a Friday news release. "These actions threaten families, entire communities and the fabric of San Antonio and Texas."
Medina, Viagran, and Gonzales also criticized Trump's order to withhold federal funds to so-called sanctuary cities. While San Antonio Police Chief William McManus has said that San Antonio does not consider itself a sanctuary city, local police officers don't inquire about someone's immigration status in making arrests.
"As Councilwoman of District 5, which largely represents and celebrates Mexican-American heritage, I believe that the role of city and local law enforcement is to protect every resident regardless of their immigration status, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or economic status," Gonzales said on Thursday. "Chief McManus and I agree that any victim of a crime should not fear reporting it to the police for any reason."
To read the City of San Antonio/SAPD official immigration policy document, click here.
"Federal funding is our money," Medina said. "Whether you call it a sanctuary city or a welcoming city, we're going to stay strong and fight for our Christian values."