This article first appeared here.
There is no question that Mexico is a much more dangerous place than the United States. So the idea of allowing unsafe trucks from Mexico unfettered access to our highways, risking the lives of U.S. drivers and endangering our national security, is outrageous.
Congress recently shut the border to these dangerous trucks, and Mexico has retaliated by raising some tariffs. Supporters cry protectionism. But the United States shouldn’t be bullied by Mexico.
When NAFTA was passed in 1994, the United States had a $1 billion trade surplus with Mexico. Last year, the trade deficit had ballooned to $64 billion. That’s hardly protectionism.
What this debate is really about is safety and security, and Mexico’s record is simple: It hasn’t met our safety standards.
In fact, a Feb. 20 State Department alert warns U.S. citizens about driving in Mexico, urging travel during daylight hours on main roads if driving can’t be avoided.
An escalating drug war there also puts our national security at risk by destabilizing Mexico along the U.S. border. More than 7,000 people in the past year have been killed.
Recent media reports document that Hezbollah uses the same southern narcotics routes of Mexican drug lords to smuggle drugs and people into the United States.
“They work together,” Michael Braun, retired assistant administrator and chief of operations at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, told The Washington Times. “They rely on the same shadow facilitators. One way or another, they are all connected.”
The U.S. Justice Department recently filed lawsuits against Union Pacific Railroad Co., seeking $37 million in damages for allegedly failing to prevent its rail cars from being used to smuggle drugs into the country.
Do we really want to open our border to trucks from Mexico, letting them travel freely throughout the United States without the ability to track them? I don’t think so. Most Americans agree, which is why Congress shut down the program.
Mexican trucks and drivers aren’t required to meet the same safety standards as U.S. trucks and drivers. Mexican trucks are older, dirtier and more dangerous.
Limits on the hours a driver can spend behind the wheel are ignored in Mexico. U.S. truck drivers are routinely tested for drugs and alcohol using labs that meet rigorous federal standards. Mexico still has no certified lab, and the collection and custody procedures have been questioned by the U.S. Transportation Department’s inspector general. U.S. truck drivers are taken off the road if they commit a serious traffic violation in their personal vehicle. Not so in Mexico.
The Bush administration opened the border to dangerous trucks from Mexico in 2007, with a few of the safest trucks handpicked to participate in a pilot program. But alarmingly, U.S. officials were unable to determine when a participating Mexican truck entered the country or where it went. DOT’s inspector general reported that no conclusions could be made about the trucks’ safety record.
A NAFTA tribunal ruled in 2001 that the United States has the right to enforce safety standards. So when Mexico keeps its end of the bargain, we can keep ours.