In border visit, Abbott urges balance between security, trade

Gov. Greg Abbott told Donald Trump’s new Homeland Security secretary Wednesday that border security should be balanced with Texas’ economic interests. 

“We want to achieve safety and security, but we also want to promote economic development,” Abbott said to the secretary, John Kelly, during a visit to the Rio Grande Valley, according to pool video. “As you know, Mexico is our largest trading partner. We need to ensure that we are able to continue that very effective trade.”

Abbott’s remarks come as Trump gets to work on his campaign promises to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and to take a tougher stance on trade deals. His administration has floated paying for the wall through a 20 percent tax on all imported goods from Mexico, an idea that has little support from Texas Republicans. 

Kelly, who was sworn in as Homeland Security secretary last month, met Wednesday with Abbott and Department of Public Safety officers in Weslaco, a city between McAllen and Harlingen, before taking an aerial tour of the border with the governor. At the meeting, Kelly promised to visit the region “a lot” and pay attention to the views of local officials.

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“There’s a lot of people, particularly in Washington, that have opinions about this border, but the only opinion, in my view, that counts right now are the people that work this border,” Kelly said. “A lot of people talk about the wall and talk about other types of aspects of the border.

“I suspect I have a pretty good idea, but there’s nothing like talking to the men and women that get dirty every day doing the nation’s work,” Kelly added.

Kelly’s visit came a day after Abbott’s State of the State speech, in which the governor said the state remains committed to securing the border as Trump’s administration takes over. Abbott has proposed maintaining state funding levels for border security that were established last legislative session.

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