Nuevo León Governor Jaime Rodríguez Calderón thinks state leaders have a right and an obligation to defend their borders, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is no different.
But Rodríguez, the swashbuckling cowboy known as "El Bronco" who in June 2015 became the first independent candidate to win a gubernatorial election in Mexico, said Texas’ uniqueness should inspire leaders here to take a different tone on immigration.
“Texas has [some] cultures and traditions that are more Mexican than Anglo,” he said. “There are reasons that we need to look at things differently [and] in a way where we don’t look for confrontations but instead for solutions.”
Rodríguez arrived in Austin this week for his first official trip as governor, invited by Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos. He met Thursday with Abbott, who has repeatedly stated he intends to strengthen ties with Texas’ southern neighbor.
On Thursday afternoon Rodríguez seemed game, saying his visit was a chance to set an agenda the states’ leaders can work on during their respective tenures in office.
Abbott's office said the governors "discussed transnational energy infrastructure and collaboration on strengthening trade and commercial ties between Texas and Nuevo Leon."
Nuevo Léon shares a small but significant stretch of border with Texas. Nestled between the states of Tamaulipas and Coahuila, it is home to Monterrey, one of Mexico’s largest cities and a commercial and industrial hub. The state is also home to the Colombia Solidarity Bridge, a major artery of the Laredo Customs District, which is the busiest inland port in the country.
On Thursday Rodríguez was polite but direct. He talked about illegal immigration in terms of economic necessity rather than lawlessness. Asked about Abbott’s efforts to stop President Obama’s immigration plan known as DAPA, he said borders were created to define territories but said everyone deserves respect.
“The world belongs to everybody. Borders were made so people could have their territories, but life in this world is free,” he said.
Rodríguez also touched on the issue of security in Mexico and said crime in his state has dropped since he took office. There are still squabbles and turf wars between criminal groups, he said, but not at the levels seen in recent years. He seized on the chance to reiterate that violence in his state has roots in the United States.
"Violence in Mexico is a difficult problem because the guns come from the United States. They are produced in the United States. How do we resolve that?” he said. “Sure, people have a right to defend themselves and their integrity and family. But the guns that get to Mexico aren’t used for that. They are used to destroy, to kill, to assassinate.”
Rodríguez said he had no desire to intervene in another government’s affairs. But he said it was his duty to investigate how his government could collaborate with others to solve problems common to both sides.
As far as his own future is concerned, Rodríguez acknowledges he has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the presidency. His success as an independent candidate was a watershed moment for Mexico, where hopefuls are usually affiliated with major parties. But a change in the election laws in 2012 made running as an independent possible, and Rodríguez said his victory signaled the climate is ripe in Mexico for the success of more non-affiliated candidates.