COMMENTARY: Hidalgo County Judge: Closing border is no solution

The Rio Grande Valley is one of the fastest growing and safest areas in the country. Much of this can be attributed to the strong, visionary leadership of many people in our communities.

In visiting with these government, business and community leaders, I have been heartened that the majority stand united in advocating for proactive policies that support the tremendous economic, social and cultural benefits of a positive relationship with Mexico.

Discussions about the closure of our ports of entry have dominated conversations from the local to the national level, however. In meeting with these leaders, I find many agree that closing our ports of entry is not a solution to any existing problem and would be detrimental to our country’s economy.

I appreciate that President Trump has taken a step back from threats for an imminent border closure. However, the president has changed his mind about matters before, so I continue to be concerned about the rhetoric and its negative impact on our community.

There is a symbiotic relationship between the U.S. and Mexico that is especially evident along our border communities. That relationship relies on trade, tourism and cross-border traffic for jobs,shopping and visiting friends and family.

Our region is already experiencing the negative impacts generated by severe delays at the ports of entry as a direct result of customs officers being reassigned to assist in the processing of asylum seekers.

These delays translate to real impacts on daily life throughout our country.

While border communities are first to feel the impact, border instability is devastating to the entire U.S. economy. We need stability in order to minimize the damage already done. We must recognize the significant impact trade with Mexico has on our national economy. Unnecessary delays and uncertainty at the nation’s southern border translate to increases in prices and decreased economic prosperity across the country.

More than $1 billion in trade crosses the U.S.-Mexico border every day and cross-border commerce supports more than 4.5 million American jobs.

In Texas, trade with Mexico generates about $187 billion annually and supports nearly 390,000 jobs, many of them in the Rio Grande Valley.

Throughout the United States, 40 percent of the fruits and vegetables available in grocery stores are imported from Mexico, and more than 65 percent of the fruits and vegetables Texans consume come from Mexico.

I am particularly concerned with reports that Border Patrol is overwhelmed by the number of people seeking asylum and want to ensure that every step is taken to support our border agents so that they are able to properly and safely process those who are being released into our community.

Our community values and applauds the selfless work of our law enforcement personnel, and President Trump and Congress need to put partisan politics aside to implement effective policies that allow them to safely and professionally accomplish their mission.

Reckless rhetoric and irresponsible policy decisions have caused the situation we are now addressing. Moving forward, we ask that our federal government avoid positions that do more harm than good. Mr. President and Congress, please keep our bridges open and properly staff our ports of entry to facilitate continued economic prosperity for all.

Richard F. Cortez is Hidalgo County judge and a member of The Monitor Board of Contributors.