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Ducey: Immigration discussion needs to shift to Mexico’s southern border

Gov. Doug Ducey, right, answers questions from former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl Tuesday about his views on foreign relations. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Gov. Doug Ducey, right, answers questions from former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl Tuesday about his views on foreign relations. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Gov. Doug Ducey said April 23 that the problems of migrants from Central America reaching our borders and flooding into Arizona communities won’t be solved until Mexico deals with its own southern border.

Speaking to the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations, the governor repeatedly praised the relationship that Arizona has with Mexico. And Ducey said that despite border issues he believes the state can increase trade with its southern neighbor.

The governor said, though, much of the talk about stopping illegal immigration is focused on the border with Mexico.

“I’d like to shift the discussion so we’re talking more about Mexico’s southern border,” he said.

“So much of this crisis is because of what’s happening in Central and South America,” Ducey explained. “These are things we need to engage in or we’re never going to really solve or mitigate this solution at the border.”

The governor said part of the issue of a secure border deals with the flow of drugs across the border. But he acknowledged in a question-and-answer session with former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl that’s only a piece of the problem.

“The crisis, humanitarian and otherwise, that’s happening in South America and Central America is bringing a flood of migrants to the border,” Ducey said. “This is another place we need communication and cooperation, not only from our federal government but to leaders in Mexico.”

One thing the governor said is getting in the way is politics.

“These are not easy issues,” he said. “And they have been routinely politicized in what to me seems to be a never-ending campaign cycle.”

The governor did not explain who he thinks is guilty.

On one hand, Ducey has generally sided with the Trump administration on things the president wants to do related to border security. But the governor also has said in the past that members of Congress from both parties share the blame.

That still leaves the question of why Mexico would want to do more to help Arizona and the United States to seal its own border with Guatemala and Belize, particularly knowing that the migrants ultimate destination is not within its own country. The answer, the governor suggested, is financial.

“I think an incentive would be we’re a very valued trading partner with Mexico,” Ducey said after his talk.

“We’ve been able to have not only additional border security from the United States side of the equation but increased trade between our two countries,” he said. “That’s the true incentive to increase not only peace but prosperity.”

The governor also made a pitch for Congress to approve the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement that the Trump administration negotiated last year. It is designed to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement that the president repeatedly derided that pact, dating back to 1994, as unfair to this country.

But while Ducey supports what’s been dubbed informally as NAFTA 2.0, he doesn’t share the president’s assessment of what it replaces.

“I believe that NAFTA is something that has been very good for the state of Arizona,” he said.

“Being a border state in this changing national economy has been a positive,” Ducey said. “Look at the growth numbers for Arizona.”

The governor called approval of the USMCA “critical” to the state’s economy.

Only thing is, some members of Congress are balking. And that has led to a new threat from Trump to build pressure.

“I take the president at his word that he may unilaterally opt out of the existing trade agreement,” Ducey said.

In December Trump said he planned to give notice “within a relatively short period of time” of the intent to withdraw. That would set a six-month deadline for Congress to approve its replacement.

So far, though, the president has not acted, at least in part because of concern by lawmakers from his own Republican Party that kind of tactic would only make it harder to get final approval of the USMCA.

Ducey, for his part, suggested that the stalemate – and the risk – is not within the GOP.

“If there is a threat on the horizon, it would be that Congress chooses to politicize the USMCA and make it about the presidential election cycle rather than what is best for the United States at this point in time,” the governor said.

Complicating matters for Trump is the fact that the U.S. House is now under Democrat control. And some party members have openly worried that the proposal will mean the loss of jobs in this country.

Ducey said he has no problem with Congress having a “proper conversation and debate” on the new trade pact, “and then vote to ratify it.”

And there’s something else.

The governor said if the United States cannot get a ratified trade deal with Mexico and Canada, it might as well forget about being able to negotiate new pacts with China and Japan.

“If you can’t get it done with your friends and neighbors, you’re not going to go over where there’s been all kinds of issues around intellectual property among other issues,” Ducey said.

Editor’s note: This headline and story has been revised to clarify that Gov. Doug Ducey did not call for Mexico to seal its southern border.

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