This Texas Border Town Would Be Split And Crippled By The Proposed US-Mexico Wall
It sits on the border but operates as one city for thousands on both sides
The very aspects of life in Laredo that allow for the city to thrive are the elements of international relations that President Trump’s isolationist policies that make it a clear target for the administration’s proposed legislation. Workers move rather freely across the border for jobs, made possible by NAFTA and other trade agreements that require straddling the international border.
The city’s pedestrian bridge allows 6,000 people per day to enter Mexico, while 14,000 vehicles cross the border daily for both work and pleasure. The demographic makeup on both sides of Laredo’s borders is predominately Latino.
As such, any discussion or steps toward tighter immigration policies (including an impenetrable wall) represent a threat to the culture and economy of the border town. Speaking to Vice, Laredo, Texas mayor Pete Saenz plainly states, "Along the entire border with Mexico, there is anxiety and, to an extent, fear as to how these things are going to play out."
Both sides of the city depend on the other for employment, productivity, and consumption. So while the wall may serve as a plain and powerful metaphor of the isolationist endgame, dissolution of trade, proposed tariffs, taxes, and other economic disincentives serve as threats that loom as large and as long as a wall’s shadow.
Complicating matters of commerce is the city’s natural situation on the border as a conduit for illegal and illicit activity. Mexican drug cartel activity naturally spills over to the U.S. side of town, and even when it doesn’t, it’s close enough to be treated, understandably, as a specter over the American side of the city.
Nonetheless, the stats show Laredo, Texas,’ crime rates to be commensurate with other American cities of its size. As such, it’s difficult to imagine a border wall would make Laredo—or the United States at large, for that matter—a safer city, but it’s certain that a wall, increased obstacles to ingress and egress, and economic trade barriers could turn a vibrant, sustainable, and some would say crucial, border town into a city scrambling to recover from losing enterprises to federal immigration and fiscal policies.
Speaking to NPR, Mayor Saenz stated plainly that any follow-through on the mechanisms to lock down the border will cripple his city, economy, and citizens:
Well, it'll be a disaster, frankly. We're a—based on the numbers that I gave you—we're a transportation, trade, commerce, distribution center, warehousing, so we're a trade town. That's our backbone and our bread and butter frankly. So if the wall is there—and it's very offensive, frankly, to the people that—well, to Mexico primarily. And the people there in Laredo and the border area do business with Mexico.