US-Mexico border mayors convene amid high-stakes debates
The first meeting of the U.S.-Mexico Border Mayors Association since Donald Trump became president of the United States begins Thursday as the stakes of debate in Washington could hardly be higher for the region of 12 million people stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.
Trump is moving ahead with plans to build a "big, beautiful wall" separating the two countries and add 5,000 Border Patrol agents, despite uncertainty about how much Congress will agree to pay. The U.S., Mexico and Canada are preparing to overhaul the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, one of Trump's favorite punching bags.
As with other border gatherings of mayors and governors, one challenge was getting enough elected officials to attend. This year's hosts, Mayor Kevin Faulconer of San Diego and Juan Manuel Gastelum of Tijuana, Mexico, ensure that two of the region's largest cities are represented. Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, will be there, as will McAllen, Texas.
El Paso Mayor Dee Margo won't attend because he will be in the state capital for meetings with the governor and legislators, said spokeswoman Olivia Zepeda. Pete Saenz, mayor of Laredo, Texas, needed to tend to city affairs after two weeks of business travel, said spokeswoman Blasita Lopez. Absent mayors from Mexico include the leaders of Mexicali, Nogales and Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros.