WESLACO – At a luncheon hosted by the Rio Grande Valley Partnership at Knapp Medical Center United States Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas gave his State of the Congress address to leaders from the Rio Grande Valley.
The Senator highlighted four topics including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), The Border Wall, Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the new tax cuts. At the end of his address some like McAllen Mayor Jim Darling and Roger Rocha of League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) were able to ask questions regarding issues affecting their respective entities.
Originally Cornyn was suppose to address local leaders in December but due to tax bill he needed to reschedule. Quickly into his speech he made sure to express to all in attendance the border region is booming and is open for business.
“To anyone who has any doubts about the border my comment to them is come on down and see it for yourself,” Cornyn said. “Get to know the wonderful people who live and work here, see what the future is going to look like for not only the State of Texas but for the United States and Mexico and all of North America.”
When President Donald Trump was elected he said NAFTA needed to be renegotiated, the Senator agrees because there has been a lot that has happened like the energy renaissance, Mexico opened the country to foreign investment and digital commerce is booming.
But Cornyn thinks and has told Trump personally that NAFTA needs to be about modernization. There cannot be any harm because NAFTA affects Texas. In the past 25 years Texas' exports to Mexico increased by 238 percent, more than a third of total goods go to Mexico ($92 billion worth) are exported from Texas annually.
These days more than 380,000 jobs depend on trade with Mexico.
“I can rattle off more numbers but real people like those in this room and around the United States have jobs dependent on international trade,” Cornyn said. “And all of our lives have been made better because of NAFTA.”
Trump has asked Congress for $18 billion to fund his border wall, a wall which during the campaign trail he promised Mexico would pay.
The Senator's view is different. From first-hand experience, Cornyn thinks a giant wall between the United States and Mexico, “from sea to shining sea,” makes no sense whatsoever.
Every time someone rattles off the idea of a wall between the two countries the Senator likes to think of his trips to Big Bend National Park.
“We all appreciate the symbolism of what that presents,” Cornyn said. “It sends a wrong message not only to people whom have immigrated from Mexico to the United States but also to our friends to the South.”
Cornyn said having a wall built could elect the wrong party into office in Mexico that would harmful to the long-term relationship between the two countries.
The fact of the matter is the Senator takes his cues from the Edinburg Sector Border Patrol Chief Manny Padilla. His advice includes infrastructure, technology and personnel.
Cornyn recalled DACA became a reality when then President Obama became frustrated with Congress and their inability to deal with broken immigration system. The president unilaterally issued temporary protective status to individuals who brought into the country at no fault of their own.
“This is a population of young adults who have done nothing wrong,” Cornyn said.
The Senator's concern has always been on how DACA was done. He thinks it is not the president's prerogative to do something like DACA. Now that Congress has the ball again Cornyn is confident it will be resolved.
“You have to have a pretty hard heart not to have sympathy for the 124,000 DACA recipients in Texas alone,” he said. “They make a valuable contribution to our state and as you all know this is an emotionally charged issue for them and I can only imagine their anxiety for them not knowing what is going to happen and when.”
The current state of play was a meeting with Trump and other lawmakers that included democrats. Having the meeting alone was progress in Washington D.C. Cornyn is confident a solution can be reached before the key deadline in March.
It will take everyone to negotiate in good faith when it comes to border security, in addition to DACA.
TAX CUTS & JOBS ACT
The Tax Foundation has predicted the new law will bring 77,000 new jobs to Texas alone and incomes will increase by $2,600. With the new law Cornyn said Congress wanted to lower tax rates recognizing the incentive to work dissipates giving back more to Uncle Sam.
The 35 percent business tax rate in the United States is the highest in the world. Cornyn said this tends to drive jobs away to other countries. With the tax cut to these large companies the hope was see employers give more to their employees.
“We've already seen how this plays out in Texas,” he said. “Companies like AT&T and Walmart have offered $1,000 bonuses to their employees.”
Cornyn also said after the IRS revises its withholding guidelines in February, folks all around will see they get to take home a little more pay.
MISUNDERSTANDING FROM OUTSIDERS
The four topics only scratched the surface of the issues facing the Rio Grande Valley in Congress. But Cornyn said Washington D.C and the Rio Grande Valley suffer from misunderstanding from outsiders.
He assured the leaders from the Valley, although they may read about how people have simply lost their minds and could never work across the aisle.
The rest of the country hears stories from time to time about communities along the border being lawless, broken and full of crime and illegal immigration.
“Both of those are false stories,” he said. “The truth in each place is different in perception and reality are not the same thing.”
The people of the Rio Grande Valley have a tremendous spirit and communities are working to take of themselves and provide more opportunity for young people as they grow in the Valley.
Cornyn said Washington is better than reported. Work gets down on a regular basis.
Beyond the subjects the Senator mentioned in his address like bipartisan efforts to secure those suffering from Hurricane Harvey, legislation that discourages human trafficking and legislation to update the background checks to buy firearms to name a few.
The people who do not know better sometimes have wildly, wrong misconceptions about Washington and how things work and the border region. But Cornyn said everyone associated with the two have the responsibility to correct those misconceptions by telling the truth.