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El Paso Mayor Calls For Resolution On NAFTA, Immigration

Mayor Dee Margo of El Paso, Texas. (Jackson Mitchell/Here & Now)
Mayor Dee Margo of El Paso, Texas. (Jackson Mitchell/Here & Now)

As Congress continues to tussle over immigration this week, Mayor Dee Margo of El Paso, Texas, says he wants to see some action on immigration, especially on DACA.

“That’s ridiculous not to be able to take care of that,” he tells Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson of the DACA program. “Those are usually productive citizens.”

Margo ( @mayor_margo), a Republican, also says that the NAFTA trade deal with Canada and Mexico has benefited his city, and he is optimistic a resolution will be reached.

Interview Highlights

On how misunderstanding of the border region impacts immigration policy

"Well first of all, you’ve got to deal with the DACA situation. That is critical. I think the problem is that most [lawmakers] do not understand the border. You know, we’re the largest U.S. city on the Mexican border. We’re a regional population of 2.7 million. We like to say we’re three states: Chihuahua, [Mexico], New Mexico and Texas; two countries: Mexico and the United States, and one region of 2.7 million people. You cannot tell the difference between El Paso and Juárez as you fly over. We’re contiguous. We’re there. If you can see the river, you can see a difference, but otherwise, you can’t.

"We’ve got over 400 years of history and culture where families live on both sides of the border. The original home for El Paso was on the south side of the border, south side of the river. People don’t understand that. Even in Texas, there’s still a misunderstanding. Commerce is critical. NAFTA is especially critical to us."

On why he is supportive of NAFTA

"I hope [NAFTA doesn't go away]. I’m optimistic that they’ll resolve [it]. There may be some tweaking that has to be done regarding settlement issues and things like that. But we have 50,000 jobs in El Paso tied to the maquila manufacturing operation in Juárez, and then we have 70 of the Fortune 100 companies manufacturing in Juárez, Mexico.

"Oh, I think it’s been a good deal all the way around for Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. Texas has a positive trade surplus with Mexico. It’s over $97 billion. So from our standpoint it’s been significant."

On the action he wants Congress to take on immigration

"We need to deal with immigration once and for all. We wouldn’t have all these symptomatic problems as we’re not dealing with the root cause. We’ve got to deal with that.

"We don’t have a rational program for immigration. We’re trying to limit those coming in. We need more. We need to do something about the 12 million that are here, especially on the DACA side."

On the possibility that some children could be housed in federal detention centers in El Paso

"They’ve talked about that. They’ve talked about the detention centers there, I read last week. I haven’t been formally contacted by Homeland Security.

"As long as they’re properly maintained, and you know, there’s nothing I can do about the fact that they’re here. And I do have a great deal of mixed feelings related to the separation of the families, but I also understand what they’re trying to do and to send a message. But we’ve been so haphazard over the years, and not just this president, but even under the preceding president, the perception was we’re open doors. And we need to — while El Paso is the safest city in the United States, we don’t have issues on immigration per se or violence of any type — you know, we need to protect our borders."

On the border infrastructure in El Paso

"We don't really have a wall. ... We have a fence that was put up during the Bush administration, and its primary design was to stop criminal activity, and it wasn’t, it didn’t have anything to do with immigration, had to do with criminal activity, of theft, and car theft and things like that. And it’s been beneficial to stop that, and it seems to work. I really dislike the phraseology 'the wall.' It reminds me of Berlin. I don’t think that’s conducive to our relationship with Mexico, but yes, we do need to protect our borders."

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