2/26/17

Biking Baja with a President Trump

If you are an American traveling in a foreign country, Trump's word choice is likely making your trip more interesting, and possibly more dangerous. Every insulting tweet or headline creates more shock, confusion, disappointment, and anger.  Anytime I was near a newspaper or a TV, Trump was on it. Whether at the dinner table, a restaurant, or in line at the grocery store, Trump came up.  Some people wanted to know if I supported him or told me what they thought- "Trump es loco!". I did not meet any Mexican Trump supporters, though one man told me his niece, now in Seattle, voted for Trump.  He said she married an American and forgot where she came from. 

In the last few years I have walked and biked more than 22,000 miles around the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, including many miles along the US-Mexican and US-Canadian border. I have had conversations with hundreds of average Joe's and Jose's. Trump would do Americans a huge favor by doing something similar,  starting with a ride down the Baja. He could even do it in a golf cart, but no hotels, only Couchsurfing and Warm Showers. If he made the trip he would learn:
  • Mexicans are human beings, not livestock.  A wall is a complete waste of our money. If there is good reason to get on the other side of a wall, a human is capable of finding a way.
  • The reason Mexicans come to the U.S. illegally is the same reason around one million Americans live in Mexico: the dollar is much stronger than the peso. The only way to solve the problem along the US-Mexico border is to improve the Mexican economy so that people have opportunity at home.  See our border with Canada. The annual budget of the US Customs and Border Patrol is over $13 billion.  We are about to spend another $10-20 billion on a wall. Surely we can come up with some mutually beneficial economic policies instead of throwing all that money away year after year. 
  • What foreigners think of the U.S. matters. Words matter. We want the best and brightest coming to the U.S.  I met a handful of ambitious college and high school students, several of which mentioned an interest in grad school.  Guess where they told me they wanted to go?  Canada.  
  • During the campaign, Trump said about Mexico, “They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing their problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists...” As it turns out, it is easy to find Americans living in Mexico that are drug addicts and/or alcoholics.  Far worse, it is no secret there are many Americans (and other foreigners) that travel to or live in Mexico, and other countries, for the purpose of having sex with children. 1,2,3,4.  The flow of problems goes both ways. The overwhelming majority of Mexicans, just like Americans and Canadians, are not criminals.  In fact, they are the kind of people that welcome a tired cyclist to their dinner table and let them camp in their backyard.
Let's stop scapegoating, assigning blame, and wasting huge amounts of money.  Instead, let's start coming up with policy solutions that actually improve peoples' lives on both sides of the border. 


 

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