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Mexicans help create, not take jobs away from Texans, SMU study says

UPDATED: Fri., April 20, 2018

Seasonal agricultural workers, holding H2A Visas, get instructions from the crew leader before picking cauliflower on a farm on March 15, 2017, in Greenfield, Calif. (Tribune News Service)
Seasonal agricultural workers, holding H2A Visas, get instructions from the crew leader before picking cauliflower on a farm on March 15, 2017, in Greenfield, Calif. (Tribune News Service)
By Alfredo Corchado Dallas Morning News

Far from taking jobs away from Texans, Mexicans are helping create additional employment opportunities, providing valuable labor for a growing economy and helping the deepening integration with Mexico, according to the Texas-Mexico Center at Southern Methodist University.

The findings of the first research study by the center comes as the Trump administration cracks down on unauthorized immigrants, referring to them as criminals and calling for a wall between both countries. The center’s study called for “freer migration” across the border and fewer barriers to international crossings, touting Texas as an example of cooperation with Mexico.

The nonpartisan Texas-Mexico Center was created in 2017 with a $4 million donation from Monterrey, Mexico-based GRUMA, and its unit, Dallas-based Mission Foods, with the goal of highlighting the deepening economic and cultural integration underway between Texas and Mexico. As many as 1 million jobs in Texas are attributed to trade with Mexico. GRUMA alone generates about 1,000 direct jobs and more than 4,500 indirect jobs in the north region.

“We know Texas leads the way in strengthening collaboration between neighbors,” said Juan Gonzalez Moreno, chairman and CEO of GRUMA in a statement. “And through this center, we reaffirm our belief that working together we will continue to elevate and strengthen the Texas-Mexico-United States relationship. This research will create better work and business opportunities on both sides of the border.”

The study relied on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and its Mexican counterpart, known as INEGI. The study, with contributions by the Bush School of Government at Texas A&M University, the Federal Reserve Board of Dallas and Colegio de Mexico in Mexico City, stressed the importance of labor from Mexico, which in many parts of the United States, is in decline.

Underscoring the trends is the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. The trade accord led to a dramatic economic transformation that fueled a shift in goods, products and movement of people, factors that over the years have impacted cities and regions far from the 2,000-mile border. For instance, supply chains and cultural integration deepened in cities like Dallas, because of the proliferation of Mexico-based companies moving into North Texas, along with their products, from tortillas, pasta, Topo Chico, and, of course, more workers.

“I would argue the border always had deep integration simply because of geography and that places like El Paso and Juarez grew up together and like cousins, bound by their shared history, family and economic journey,” said Luisa M. del Rosal, executive director of the SMU Tower Center and Mission Foods Texas-Mexico Center, as the center is formally known. “NAFTA made the relationship grow beyond the border and allowed other cities to enjoy the fruits of a close familial relationship. In Dallas, it went beyond economics. It was cultural because the people and products were now here, beyond the border and NAFTA enhanced that at the border and made it possible in North Texas.”

The report’s rosy outlook is a thorn on the side of the Trump administration. Last week, U.S Attorney General Jeff Sessions visited the border and compared immigrants to criminals. Sessions decried illegal migration and insisted that legality must come before anything, downplaying the need for more workers during a booming economy.

“Under President Trump, we’ve seen wages increase at the fastest pace in a decade,” Sessions said. “And we can already hear the open borders crowd – and certain sectors of the business lobby – starting to complain. But we absolutely must not flood the labor market with foreign workers – legal or illegal – in order to bring wages down. Our citizens want our government to think about them for a change. They have dreams, too.”

Among the study’s findings:

Trade with Mexico does not hinder interstate trading in the U.S. States are still more likely to trade among themselves than across the border with Mexico, which shows the border trade relationship supports both national and international trade.

Because of the integration across value chains, there is clear evidence that Mexican and U.S. workers are complements for each other rather than substitutes.

Revisions of NAFTA need to maintain cross-border integration.

Freer migration reduced Mexico’s wage inequality.

Texas A&M University’s Raymond Robertson, however, said the post-NAFTA era presents new economic opportunities complemented by a labor market across borders.

“While Mexican and American workers competed for the same jobs during the 1987-1994 period, since NAFTA this has changed,” he said. “Now both groups complement each other and act as a single production unit.”

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