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Trump's Plans Could Cripple Small Businesses on the Border

Welcome sign outside Presidio, Texas. (The Brit_2/Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Last week when President Trump’s Press Secretary Sean Spicer dropped the possibility of a 20% tariff on Mexican imports to pay for Trump’s wall, pubic voices around the country cried out. Big corporations complained tariffs would ruin them. Experts said Trump is just passing the buck to the consumer. Outside of the press storm, a cafe and a grocery story that do business with each other across the US border, voiced their own fears. 

To beat the checkpoint lines I drive through Presidio and go straight to Mexico. I pop in to the first busy place I see -- it’s a grocery store.

“We’ve been around for 31 years and have seen these kinds of policies,” said Carlos Franco, Assistant Manager at La Bajita, a grocery store and butcher shop in Ojinaga, Mexico. “It’s kind of scary at the moment.”

Carlos didn’t think Trump was going to follow through with his campaign promises. But given what’s happened during these first two weeks it seems Trump is serious about even the most extreme parts of his agenda.

“I think it would drop our sales quite a bit. Maybe up to 50%, and that’s pretty scary” said Franco.

I buy some corn tortillas and avocados and head back towards Presidio. It’s still early but the checkpoint line is long. Going back into the US always takes longer.

Angela Mendarez, 16, works at The Bean, a border café in Presidio, Texas. Mendarez says the café is a town favorite. “A bunch of peoples come here, schools, border patrols come here, the teachers come.”

Mendarez is worried some of Trump’s trade ideas might put the restaurant in jeopardy.

“When my parents put the order in for the vegetables, they come the next day. They’re like really fresh, they’re not going to be as fresh or maybe too ripe,” said Mendarez. “My dad really loves the restaurant, he loves it, it was his dream, ever since I was little, I always heard him say yeah I want a restaurant. And now we have it. And it is kind of sad that...it’s probably gonna get slower, is is probably gonna get slower.”

Because The Bean is on the border Trumps agenda could create staffing challenges too.

Antonio Perez is a line cook at The Bean. Every day he rides his bike across the border, across the Rio, to work. Right now the trip only takes 15 minutes. Antonio is worried Trump’s security measures might slow down his commute. Or force an outright move.

“It could be that things start to change because he’s adding security,” said Perez. “He might want us to move to the US and not live over there.”

-- Asa Merritt