As part of highlighting Border Issues as one of our Center’s key focus areas we talked to Jeanne Tower Cox, a member of our Executive Advisory Board and SMU Trustee, to provide perspective from a lifelong Texan and dedicated philanthropist to the border region. Jeanne is also the daughter of the late U.S. Senator John Tower, longtime public servant, defense expert and proponent of strong ties between Texas and Mexico.
Why did you decide to serve on the Texas-Mexico Center’s executive board? What do you hope the center accomplishes?
I wanted to serve on the Mission Foods Texas-Mexico Board because of my admiration of the Mexican people, my love of Texas and my understanding of the important relationship between the two. My hope is that the Texas-Mexico Center will promote a better partnership between the U.S., Texas in particular and Mexico through shared cultural and educational opportunities, and through research and dissemination of that research on timely issues affecting both countries like trade, migration and economic partnerships.
In your view, why is Mexico important to Texas?
Sharing almost 2,000 miles of border with our southern neighbor makes it imperative that we understand each other. Mexico is our largest trading partner and supplier of much of the workforce in Texas.
As a lifelong Texan, how has the Texas-Mexico border transformed throughout your life?
In the 1950s and early 60’s Mexican Laborers did not have the difficulties they face now to work in Texas. Programs like The Bracero Program allowing Mexican workers to come to the U.S. for seasonal work were commonplace. This allowed family members to remain in Mexico, children to remain in school there and wages to be sent home legally. Our immigration policy these days is a mess and clearly does not meet the needs of the migrants or those of U.S. employers. The Congress absolutely has to address these issues and I hope the Texas-Mexico Center will be an important and useful way to help educate them to craft informed, meaningful policy.
What would you tell someone from out of state who says they are afraid of what’s happening along the Texas-Mexico border?
People from outside Texas often have misconceptions of what the Texas-Mexico border is like. When I was a child we would drive with our parents and their friends from South Texas across the border and back for dinner, or a day of shopping. The Mexican people are friendly, warm and industrious and they value faith and family. Much like Texans. They are great neighbors.
What do you expect of policymakers in Texas and in Washington charged with ensuring the border functions safely, effectively and efficiently?
I believe in strong and secure borders. I also believe in the rule of law. Lack of a cohesive, reasonable immigration policy threatens both.