PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey said Tuesday that the problems of migrants from Central America reaching our border 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, Ducey noted much of the talk about stopping illegal immigration is focused on the U.S. 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 said. “These are things we need to engage in or we’re never going to really solve or mitigate” the situation at the U.S. border.
Ducey said part of the issue of a secure border deals with the flow of drugs. But he acknowledged in a question-and-answer session with former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl that 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 getting in the way, he said, 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.” He did not say by whom.
On one hand, Ducey has generally sided with the Trump administration on things the president wants to do related to border security. But the Republican governor also has said in the past that members of Congress from both parties share the blame.
As to the question of why Mexico would want to seal its own border with Guatemala and Belize to help the U.S., knowing that the migrants’ ultimate destination is not within its own country, Ducey said the answer is financial.
“I think an incentive would be we’re a very valued trading partner with Mexico,” he told reporters 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. That’s the true incentive to increase not only peace but prosperity.”
Ducey’s comments come as many Arizona communities have been inundated with migrants seeking asylum, as federal officials simply drop them off in border cities after they are detained.
Yuma Mayor Douglas Nicholls declared an emergency, saying his city of 100,000 cannot absorb the flood of people who get stuck there while waiting for buses or other transportation elsewhere.
Ducey 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 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement that Trump repeatedly derided 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,” Ducey said. “Being a border state in this changing national economy has been a positive. Look at the growth numbers for Arizona.”
The governor called approval of the USMCA “critical” to the state’s economy.
Some members of Congress are balking, which 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 in his own Republican Party that such a tactic would only make it harder to get final approval of the USMCA.
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,” he said, “you’re not going to go over where there’s been all kinds of issues around intellectual property among other issues.”