Relations between Mexico and the United States are often reduced to just two issues: border security and unauthorized immigration. Lawmakers and commentators who call for the construction of a fence along all 2,000 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, for instance, tend to portray Mexico as if it were a hostile nation with which we are at war; a source of law-breaking migrants, dangerous smugglers, illegal drugs, and little else. However, the reality of the U.S.-Mexico relationship is far more complex than this caricature suggests. As President Obama remarked during his trip to Mexico on May 3:

“…between our two countries, we’re some 430 million people…tens of millions of Mexican Americans enrich our national life in the United States. Well over 1 million Americans live here in Mexico. Every year, millions of tourists—most of them from the United States—visit this magnificent country. Every day, millions of workers in our countries earn a living from the jobs that are made possible by our trade, and more than 1 million people cross our shared border—businesspeople, students, educators, scientists, researchers, collaborating in every sphere of human endeavor.”

A few statistics from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative further flesh out the depth and breadth of the U.S.-Mexico relationship. Bilateral trade between the two countries totaled roughly half-a-trillion dollars in 2011: $224 billion in exports to Mexico, and $277 billion in imports from Mexico. U.S. foreign direct investment in Mexico amounted to $91.4 billion, while Mexican direct investment in the United States was $13.8 billion. As a 2012 report from the Wilson Institute succinctly states:

“Commerce between the United States and Mexico is one of the great yet highly underappreciated success stories of the global economy. The United States is Mexico’s top trading partner, and Mexico—which has made enormous strides in its macroeconomic picture in the last two decades—is the U.S.’ third-ranked partner in terms of total trade.”

These facts suggest two countries with a shared destiny; not two adversaries.

Given the vast and symbiotic nature of the relationship between Mexico and the United States, will a U.S. security strategy that relies primarily on border fortifications and tens of thousands of “boots on the ground” actually work?

Or will it succeed primarily in undermining legitimate trade, tourism, and travel to the detriment of the U.S. economy?

What role can or should immigration reform play in the border-security equation?

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  • MdeG

    Lot of nonsense. The US and Mexico are part of one economic system, and have been for a very long time. While excluding drugs is a legit. purpose, providing adequate treatment for addicts in the US is probably far more effective than the Great Wall of China approach. I oppose border militarization, drones, the prison-industrial complex, and especially the corrupt private prison industry. Putting GEO group and CCA out of business is my idea of improving the situation on the border. Someone should do a good expose of their (and their money’s) relation to the spate of hateful anti-immigrant legislation — and while about it, look at ties to Tanton’s nasty spiderweb of hate groups.

  • Sac Lawyer

    I think the two countries are so inextricably linked that the mere presence of a wall (if they ever can finish building one) will not resolve any of the problems complained of. Even if Mexico and the rest of Latin America was totally divided from the USA, the internal problems would still exist. In this sense, I totally agree with the other poster that problems must be addressed internally. If they really want to fight the war on drugs, it requires educating society about the negative aspects of drug use. It also requires spending money on substance abuse programs. Steps such as these will diminish the market for illegal drugs in the U.S., thus giving drug cartels less incentive to target the nation for drug sales. Additionally, fixing the broken immigration system will allow us to know exactly who is here and to step up enforcement for employers who are seeking out low wage immigrant labor.

  • Mark Noferi

    Interesting article on this front:

    Among other quotes: “It creates a DMZ like North and South Korea, except [it's] between the U.S. and Mexico—our third largest trading partner,” said Mark Noferi, an immigration law professor at Brooklyn Law School.