Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wrapped up his visit to Mexico on Tuesday with a meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.
The two political leaders stressed the growing business ties between the Latin American nation and the border state – though the touchy subject of immigration and border security did come up.
"I want to extend my deepest gratitude to President Peña Nieto for taking the time to meet with me on my first visit to Mexico as governor of Texas," Abbott said in a statement, according to the Dallas Morning News. "This trip has yielded significant outcomes that will ultimately strengthen the bond between Texas and Mexico. I look forward to continuing our dialogue and working with Mexico to ensure greater prosperity on both sides of the border."
Abbott, on his first international trip as governor, focused his attentions on economic and educational opportunities between the Texas and Mexico. Bilateral trade between the state and country amounts to more than $192 billion a year and generates more than 400,000 jobs in Texas alone.
One of the key moves made during Abbott’s visit was the establishment of a program by Southern Methodist University to research and promote policy-based discussions on economic, political and social ties between the world’s 12th largest economy (Texas) and the 15th largest one (Mexico).
"This will be the first time a research program will be dedicated to the very dynamic relationship between a state and a country," Luisa del Rosal, director of programs and external relations for SMU’s John G. Tower Center for Political Studies, said. "This reflects how unique Texas is and how important Mexico is in the larger context of the United States-Mexico relationship."
While Abbott tried to put on a positive face during his trip to Mexico, the specters of immigration, border issues and the presidential elections in the U.S. loomed over his visit.
Abbott himself has made several moves since taking office to curb undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Central America from crossing into Texas – including challenging of President Barack Obama's executive order to temporarily allow undocumented immigrants to stay in the country. In June, Abbott signed legislation that dedicates $800 million to border security. The bill will facilitate the hiring of additional troops along the border and will increase fines for human smugglers.
Despite several complaints from the Mexican government and a legal brief filed in support of plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Texas officials who had denied birth certificates to children born to noncitizen parents, Abbott praised the country’s apparent willingness to help with issues along its border with Texas.
"Both the biggest surprise – and the most pleasant aspect of this trip – is the way Mexico behind closed doors has shown great support for securing the border," Abbot said, according to the Houston Chronicle. "In all my talks with Mexican officials, no one has said anything negative about what Texas has done on the border. To the contrary, they have talked about ways in which they can better secure the border and that they can collaborate with Mexico in securing the border."
In a statement, Peña Nieto "expressed the importance of the contributions of the Mexican community in the United States and emphasized the need to adopt state policies that will permit the [Mexican] immigrant community to integrate into Texas."