Opinion | Susan Knopf: Holy guacamole! Closing the border is a disastrous idea
For The Record
I’m not ready to live without avocados. I grew up in southern California, where avocados are ubiquitous, served cubed in salads, on toast topped with seasoned salt, eaten alone with a squeeze of lemon, and of course as guacamole. It’s California soul food.
I remember feeding my daughter mashed avocado when she was just a baby. It was winter time and the avocados were pricey. I bought just one. First I mashed up a quarter of the avocado for her. She was delighted. With persistent guttural grunts, she begged for more. So I mashed up another quarter and served it to her, as I turned the other half into guacamole for my husband and me. She wolfed it down and continued to beg for more and would not touch her other food. I shook my head and told her there was no more. When she saw the guacamole come to the table she pointed emphatically and blasted us with noises that sounded more like someone gagging rather than someone attempting to speak. So I gave her a dollop of the salsa-enhanced avocado. She gulped it and her eyes bulged. Her surprise turned to shock, then horror. Not for long. By the time she was 2 years old she ate all manner of spicy foods — her choice not mine. Guacamole remains a favorite.
I do digress.
We Americans get about half of our fruits and vegetables from Mexico, according to NBC. Mexico is a major trading partner, not just for imports. Mexico ranks third, as our top agricultural trading partner according to the Congressional Research Service.
Mexico bought more dairy, poultry and corn from us than any other foreign country in 2017.
I guess after the tariff debacle, President Donald Trump is looking to further betray his agricultural base. Yeah, let’s throw the farmers under the bus. That’ll be a good way to placate fearful, xenophobic, Fox-informed Trump sycophants.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says closing the U.S.-Mexico border would “produce an economic calamity.” And not just in agricultural products. “The North American auto industry will be crippled” in a week if the border closes, tweeted Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
National Public Radio’s Marketplace reports auto parts move back and forth across the U.S. border about eight times! Seems inefficient to me. Dziczek explains labor-intensive parts are made in Mexico to save money — like wiring harnesses. She told CNN Business more than 70% of wire harnesses come from Mexico. Much of the rest of the harnesses arrive at the US-Mexican border from countries south of Mexico.
She told CNN Business, “It’s one of the first pieces you install when you’re assembling a car,” she said. “You can’t build the whole car and slap the wire harness in later. This is a big critical part that shuts down the assembly line if you don’t have it.” She also told CNN there are many other critical parts, from seat belt anchors to engine components that also come from Mexico, and can’t be replaced by U.S. factories any time soon.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said “Closing down the border would have a potentially catastrophic economic impact on our country. I would hope that we would not be doing that sort of thing.” The Chamber estimates $1.7 billion in trade moves between Mexico and the U.S. every single day. In 2018, Mexican imports of U.S. goods set an all-time record high. Mexico imports more from the U.S. than any other trading partner.
These statistics don’t seem to concern the president. The New York Times reports, Trump said, “Sure, it’s going to have a negative impact on the economy, but security is most important. Security is more important to me than trade.” Maybe someone should explain to Trump if there’s no trade, fewer people will be staying in his hotels and golfing at his clubs. He seems to have a myopic view of the world the rest of us live in.
What happens when your car breaks down and you find out there are no parts because they are made in Mexico? And if you think for one minute they’ll fly them in, the U.S. Department of transportation reports that 80% of our trade with Mexico is shipped by rail or truck.
The San Diego Tribune reported shopkeepers said they lost $5.3 million in sales from a five-hour border closure at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. The Tribune says San Ysidro is the busiest border crossing in the Western Hemisphere. About 70,000 vehicles and 25,000 pedestrians move between the two countries each day.
The second biggest port of entry is El Paso. AP reported last week that the port is already closed.
When I spoke with staff in the El Paso mayor’s office, they reported the ports of entry in El Paso district have skeleton crews. Apparently officers have been reassigned to ports of entry facing greater immigration pressures.
The really stupid part of this whole thing is Trump is trying keep out people looking for work. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell says economic growth is tied directly to labor force growth. He told CBS’ “60 Minutes” that when the U.S. economy experienced 4% to 5% growth in the ’60s and ’70s, the labor force was growing 2.5% to 3%. Powell said, “We have an older population now and our labor force is growing more slowly. It’s growing less than 1% per year. So, it’s not likely we could sustain the kind of growth rates we had when the population and labor force was growing more quickly.” So whether he acts tomorrow or a year from now, Trump is turning away the people we need to grow our economy, and by doing so he is “crippling” businesses that are thriving.
Perhaps instead of closing ports and withholding aid, we could help neighboring countries fight the drug cartels and the violence they bring. Instead of building a wall, we could develop a humane process to screen and welcome economic refugees because our economy needs them.
If the borders close, we will run out of avocados in three weeks. In the meantime, I’m gonna stock up.
See the digital version of this column online for links to source material. Susan Knopf is a Summit County resident and a weekly contributor to the Summit Daily.
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