As Trump Tariffs Threat Looms, Mexico Trade City Prepares For Importer Influx

Traffic backs up along the route to the border crossing from Mexico to the U.S. in Laredo, Texas in 2015. Mexico recently surpassed China and Canada as America’s top trading partner, which helped catapult Laredo past Los Angeles to become the number one port in the country.

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Matthew Busch/Getty Images

Residents, business owners and political leaders in Laredo, Texas are bracing for President Trump’s implementation of a 5% tariff on all goods coming from Mexico that would begin June 10th.

The president said the tariff will gradually increase to 25% if Mexico doesn’t do more to stop the flow of illegal immigration into the U.S.

Ernesto Gaytan Jr. is the general manager of Super Transport International in Laredo, a company founded by his father almost 30 years ago in Mexico.

“Laredo exists because of its location and the closeness we have with Mexico,” he said.

Gaytan, wearing a black fitted suit in 90 degree Texas heat, toured his company’s operations field.

“This is where a lot of the transloads happen,” said Gaytan. “We move materials from a trailer coming in from the United States into Mexico. We transfer freight from a U.S. carrier to a Mexico carrier, or from a Mexican carrier to a U.S carrier.”

Mexico recently surpassed China and Canada as America’s top trading partner, which helped catapult Laredo past Los Angeles to become the number one port in the country. About $20 billion worth of goods flowed through during the month of March — mostly automotive parts.

Gaytan said the tariff could impact his trucking company and jobs across the country.

“There are some companies that 5% is what their margin is going to be, so you’re talking about companies that are not going to be able to ship anymore,” said Gaytan. “It’s going to shrink the capacity, it’s going to shrink the market.”

Gaytan and other business owners are concerned there will be even longer lines at the ports of entry because many companies might try to double their average of shipments before the June 10 deadline.

Laredo has already been experiencing record wait times that can be hours long. This was recently exacerbated when the Trump administration reassigned 300 Customs and Border Protection officers from the ports of entry to help process asylum claims. Adding to the fear of the business community has been President Trump’s threats to close the border entirely.

“For us, I did the numbers and we would lose about $270,000 a day if the border shuts down,” said Gaytan.

At a town hall Friday, Gaytan and other local businesses brought their concerns to CBP. Eduardo Lozano, CEO of EELCO Supply Chain Solutions and a local broker, was in attendance.

Lozano said he’s begun receiving phone calls from importers who said they plan on sending double their shipments before the June 10 deadline.

“Is CBP prepared to receive all the additional influx of shipments?” Lozano asked. “Are we prepared?”

Brenda Smith, the executive assistant commissioner with the Office of Trade at CBP took Lozano’s question.

“I would tell you not today, but tomorrow,” said Smith. “You have got to have your eyes open and your powder dry at all times because the situation changes so quickly.”

And that’s a problem, said Gerry Schwebel, executive vice president of IBC Bank headquartered in Laredo.

Schwebel worked on NAFTA and the US-Mexico-Canada agreement. He said the tariff further strains the U.S. relationship with Mexico, especially when trying to pass the USMCA, also known as NAFTA 2.0.

“This is not in the spirit of open relationships with our largest trading partner, which is Mexico,” said Schwebel. “They will always be our neighbor, we can’t be in any way threatening or try to coerce our partners to do certain things.”

Schwebel said border communities like Laredo will be hard-hit if the tariff takes effect, but the consumer will ultimately pay the price.

David MacPherson, the chair of Trinity University’s Department of Economics, agrees.

“It’s a textbook example of how to do self-harm. When we put a tariff on Mexican goods or Chinese goods or anybody else, we pay the tariff. The consumer pays it. Not the other country,” said MacPherson. “Everything that we consume that’s manufactured in Mexico is going to get more expensive and jobs are going to be lost.”

Laredo mayor Pete Saenz said he is proud that his city of about 260,000 people is now the nation’s busiest trade hub and wants to keep it that way, but for that to continue, he wants to see the president separate the issues of trade and immigration.

“It creates uncertainty,” said Saenz. “People wanting to invest, hold back. It jolts the system in a negative way.”

Texas Public Radio fellow Sierra Juarez contributed to this story.

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Fresh Air Weekend: Mental Health On Campus; How Eugenics Shaped Immigration Policy

A file photo shows the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. Dr. Anthony Rostain, co-author of The Stressed Years of Their Lives, says today’s college students are experiencing an “inordinate amount of anxiety.”

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Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

College Students (And Their Parents) Face A Campus Mental Health ‘Epidemic’: Anthony Rostain and B. Janet Hibbs say college students today face an “inordinate amount of anxiety” — but parents can help their kids cope. Their book is The Stressed Years of Their Lives.

Elton John Biopic ‘Rocketman’ Is A Surprising Song-And-Dance Spectacular: Rocketman finds ways to buck convention even in the familiar framework of the rock biopic. The operatic excesses are balanced by a powerful sense of melancholy in this marvelous biographical musical.

Eugenics, Anti-Immigration Laws Of The Past Still Resonate Today, Journalist Says: Daniel Okrent, author of The Guarded Gate, draws a parallel between the eugenics movement, which helped shape U.S. immigration in the early 20th century, and President Trump’s hard-line stance today.

You can listen to the original interviews here:

College Students (And Their Parents) Face A Campus Mental Health ‘Epidemic’

Elton John Biopic ‘Rocketman’ Is A Surprising Song-And-Dance Spectacular

Eugenics, Anti-Immigration Laws Of The Past Still Resonate Today, Journalist Says

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What We Know About The Virginia Beach Mass Shooting Victims

People gather at a vigil for victims of a mass shooting at a municipal building in Virginia Beach, Va. A longtime city employee opened fire on Friday evening, killing many of his colleagues.

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Friday night’s shooting at a municipal building in Virginia Beach killed 12 people. Most were city employees with a length of service ranging from 11 months to 41 years.

“They leave a void that we will never be able to fill,” City Manager Dave Hansen said Saturday morning.

Officials identified the shooter as DeWayne Craddock, a 15-year public utilities engineer, who was a current employee at the time of the shooting. He died after what Virginia Beach Police Chief James Cervera called a “long-term large gunfight” with police officers.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff over the state Capitol and all local, state, and federal buildings to honor the victims. Flags will remain lowered until the evening of Saturday, June 8.

City officials named the 12 people who were killed in the shooting. They were identified as:

Christopher Kelly Rapp, of Powhatan, an engineer with Public Works

In a Facebook post, bandmates of Rapp say they are “heartbroken.” Rapp recently moved to Virginia Beach, according to the post, and was a member of the Greater Richmond Pipes & Drums. “He was quiet but had a passion for the pipes and Scottish culture,” the post continues.

Ryan Keith Cox of Virginia Beach, an account clerk with Public Utilities for more than 12 years.

Cox’s older brother posted on Facebook, “My heart is hurting because my baby brother was murdered today by the shooter in Virginia Beach mass shooting. I won’t hear[s] his beautiful singing voice at church or home anymore. I loved my brother and will truly miss his caring soul. Until we meet again in heaven.”

Laquita C. Brown of Chesapeake, Va., a right of way agent with Public Works.

Tara Welch Gallagher of Virginia Beach, an engineer with Public Works.

Mary Louise Gayle of Virginia Beach, a right of way agent with Public Works.

Alexander Mikhail Gusev of Virginia Beach, a right of way agent with Public Works.

Katherine A. Nixon of Virginia Beach, an engineer with Public Utilities.

Richard H. Nettleton of Norfolk, Va., an engineer with Public Utilities.

Joshua Hardy of Virginia Beach, an engineering tech resident with Public Utilities.

Michelle “Missy” Langer of Virginia Beach, an administrative assistant with Public Utilities.

Robert “Bobby” Williams of Chesapeake, a special projects coordinator with Public Utilities.

Herbert “Bert” Snelling of Virginia Beach, a contractor who was filing a permit when the shooting occurred.

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