AUSTIN - Donald Trump's Mexico City meeting with President Enrique Pena Nieto made headlines in both countries.
Like many, Consul General of Mexico Carlos Gonzalez Gutierrez has been following the U.S. presidential race -- with particular attention to the remarks the Republican nominee has made about immigration and Mexico. He sat down with KVUE Friday at the Mexican Consulate in Austin to discuss the effects of the immigration conversation on the two nations' economic and diplomatic relationships.
"We have been hearing demeaning and hateful rhetoric on his part," said Gonzalez Gutierrez, who credits Trump's trip as a positive opportunity to exchange views and concerns. Unfortunately, he says, the dialogue is lacking in some key areas.
"We need to make sure that the rhetoric matches to some extent reality," said Gonzalez Gutierrez. For example, he singles out the narrative that "Mexicans are invading" the United States through illegal immigration.
According to the Pew Research Center, the reality is there are 35 million people of Mexican origin living in the United States, including 12 million who were born in Mexico. Mexican immigration has been on the decline since 2007, and net immigration from Mexico has been negative for the last five years on record. The period of 2009 to 2014 saw 140,000 more people return to Mexico than immigrate north.
Yet one issue looms above all others: A "great wall" along the southern border.
"First of all, it would be catastrophic for the U.S. economy," said Gonzalez Gutierrez. "It would be catastrophic for the relations with Mexico, between the U.S. and Mexico, and will help very little in terms of stopping the flow."
He points out roughly half of undocumented immigrants came the U.S. legally and overstayed their visas, and suggests a wall would send an unfriendly signal. While acknowledging the United States is completely within its right to defend its sovereign territory, Gonzalez Gutierrez balks at the idea Mexico -- another sovereign nation -- would pay for it.
"It really makes no sense. The president's told that directly to Mr. Trump," said Gonzalez Gutierrez. "Mexican taxpayer money is going to spend for the benefit of Mexicans in Mexico."
Gonzalez Gutierrez's main point is that their interests are intertwined with ours.
"If we start placing obstacles to NAFTA, if we start placing obstacles in the relationship between Mexico and the United States, Texas is going to be the first one to suffer it," said Gonzalez Gutierrez. "It is crucial to talk about these matters because this is a very risky business for Texas. It's a high-stakes game."
According to numbers compiled by the Mexican Consulate, Texas' trade with Mexico is worth $196 billion. Texas also benefits from more than 200,000 of the six million U.S. jobs tied to trade with Mexico. Fortunately, that relationship is in pretty good shape. As Gonzalez Gutierrez says, Texas leaders "get it."
"But I think that it is very important that not only key decision makers, but the public in general, understand that the well-being of the average Texan depends on the well-being of the Mexican economy, and that's a fact," Gonzalez Gutierrez concluded. "And of course, the other way is true."
(© 2016 KVUE)