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Trump And Mexico's President Talk Need For Guest Worker Program


We've got one more story coming out of the G-20. A bit of a surprise was President Trump's down with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on Friday. Now, this comes after a visit between the two that had been set for Washington, D.C., earlier this year was canceled because of the ongoing dispute about that border wall that President Trump wants Mexico to pay for. Just before their meeting started on Friday, reporters asked President Trump if he still intended to have Mexico pay for the war, and he said, absolutely. But according to official reports of the meeting, the wall didn't come up.

Curious about the disconnect, we called Alfredo Corchado, who covers the border and Mexico for the Dallas Morning News. I started by asking him about reaction to the meeting in Mexico because the Mexican press had called it a humiliating moment.

ALFREDO CORCHADO: Another humiliating moment. And it wasn't just Mexico who covered it. I mean, it was covered all over the world. And I think that's the strategy behind, you know, the Mexicans once again trying to show that the two countries have a relationship. And to be fair to the Mexicans, I think optics aside, officials on both sides will agree that the relationship has improved from January, from that encounter that never happened in D.C. And I think they're learning that to deal with President Trump, you focus on what he does and not what he says. But even that one word - absolutely - just played all over the world. And, you know, Mexico again had egg on his face.

MARTIN: Do we know about what they did talk about? They say - both sides actually say, like, they didn't talk about this border wall or this proposed tax on Mexican imports. But what did they talk about? I mean, we say that, for example, President Trump's long talked about his displeasure with the U.S. trade deficit with Mexico. He says he wants to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA. Did they talk about this?

CORCHADO: Yeah, they talked about that. I mean, officially, the officials will say, you know, from both sides the meeting was very productive, emphasizing how things are well between both countries. There is something that the foreign minister from Mexico spoke to Mexicans during a radio interview which I thought was interesting. It wasn't really covered by the White House press, but apparently they talked about the need for a guest worker program, something similar to the Bracero Program which from 1940 to the 1960s, 5 million Mexicans received contracts to work in the United States legally as seasonal workers.

And that's interesting because in the last few years, we've seen that the Mexicans coming to the United States has really fallen to an all-time low throughout the United States whether, whether it's the meatpacking industry in the Midwest or the agricultural fields in Central California. So there is a kind of a growing sense of nostalgia for the Mexicans. I think employers are beginning to really miss the Mexicans. And the fact that the two sides even broached the issue I thought was quite significant.

MARTIN: Alfredo Corchado is the former Mexico bureau chief for the Dallas Morning News. He's currently a correspondent covering the Borderlands and Mexico. He's writing a forthcoming book about the U.S.-Mexico relationship. And he was kind enough to join us from El Paso. Alfredo, thanks so much for speaking with us.

CORCHADO: Thank you, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.