Texas Hispanic business owners to national leaders: Stop playing politics at border

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SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — An organization that represents 700,000 Hispanic-owned businesses in Texas has a message for national leaders: Stop playing politics at the border.

The 44th annual Hispanic Business Convention of Texas kicks off in San Marcos Thursday as national attention focuses on trade, tariffs and immigration at the U.S.’s southern border.

“We are truly one of the economic engines of Texas,” said J.R. Gonzales, executive vice chair of the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce (TAMACC), the group that runs the three-day conference. “A lot of people think of minority-owned businesses as landscapers, painters, and construction workers. We have those, but we also have computer programmers, we have attorneys, we have doctors, we have elected officials, we have judges.”

Mexico is the state’s largest trading partner. Texas businesses sent $109.7 billion in goods to the country in 2018 and imported $106.9 billion, according to federal statistics.

President Donald Trump announced in June he would impose a 5% tariff on Mexican goods coming into the U.S. unless the government did more to combat illegal border crossings. The two countries reached a deal and Trump canceled the tariffs before they went into effect, but the threat still looms.

“If we were to add tariffs, if we were to shut the border, if we were to actually be doing something adverse to our neighbor in the south,” he said, “it would literally affect millions of jobs in the U.S.”

Three days of panels, speakers and meetings at the convention will help Hispanic business owners grow their enterprises and develop better relationships with their peers and customers. It won’t focus specifically on immigration and trade talks, Gonzales said, but something so critical to the state’s economy can’t be ignored.

“In the next two to three years, over 50% of this state will be Hispanic,” he said. “Whether you’re a Hispanic-owned business or not a Hispanic-owned business, you can’t afford to ignore 50% of your market.”

He wants national leaders to keep the businesses he represents in mind as they debate immigration reform and whether to impose trade taxes on Mexico.

Being an entrepreneur is a risk on its own, he said, and Hispanic business owners don’t need the added risk of a deteriorating relationship with customers inside and outside the state.

“We’re all for trade,” he said, “but let’s have free trade.”

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The mission of BorderReport.com is to provide real-time delivery of the untold local stories about people living, working and migrating along the U.S. border with Mexico. The information is gathered by experienced and trusted Nexstar Media Group journalists hired specifically to cover the border.