AUSTIN — U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke condemned President Donald Trump’s immigration rhetoric and executive actions on Friday, arguing that building a wall and imposing trade tariffs on Mexico will jeopardize more than six million jobs in the United States.

The El Paso Democrat said in a press conference Friday that protectionist economic trade walls will create more barriers for U.S. exports and the country would lose economic growth.

“We will find ourselves in another Great Depression if we continue down this path,” O’Rourke said.

President Donald Trump issued an executive order Thursday to start construction of extending the border wall, fulfilling a campaign promise, and suggested a 20 percent tariff on goods imported from Mexico could be imposed to pay for the wall, prompting fears of a possible North American trade war. Mexico is the third largest exporter to the U.S. in 2015, with $309 billion in goods sold.

About $84 billion of those goods were sold to Texans in 2015, roughly a third of the state’s imports that year, according to U.S. census data.

O’Rourke said that Trump’s ‘trade war’ would make American exports less competitive around the world and hurt the American worker. Latin America, Asia and Europe would close their doors to American trade, he said.

“We make and build and produce things here in America, we ship them to Mexico for final assembly and we bring them back here,” O’Rourke said. “Six million Americans in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and 500,000 in the state of Texas depend on U.S. Mexico trade for their jobs. If we lose that trade, and we will if we slap a 20 percent tariff on them, we’re going to lose those jobs.”

O’Rourke said humiliating Mexico with a border wall, imposing trade tariffs and jeopardizing the North American Trade Agreement are not aligned with the best American traditions and that it is hateful and racist.

O’Rourke said El Paso is among the safest cities in the United States, but that safety and security are both at stake as the president announced the border wall executive action and border tariff proposal.

“It also jeopardizes our ability to effectively work with Mexico on issues like security, human smuggling or drug smuggling, issues like vector control when we have things like the Zika virus at our border and the ability to cooperate effectively with our southern neighbor,” he said.

When questioned about running statewide in 2018, O’Rourke said he is “very encouraged about what is going on in the state.”

“I’ve spent much of the last two months traveling around the state of Texas and in every instance in meeting every person, Republican, Democrat, Independent, or otherwise, very encouraged about what’s going on in the state, the opportunity for someone to present leadership where it may be lacking today, and very close to making a positive decision to run against Cruz or for Texas,” he said.

This article was published in the San Antonio Express-News Jan. 27, 2017. 

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