Wall Street Journal
By Alejandro Lazo
July 30, 2014
MEXICO CITY—California Gov. Jerry Brown ended a three-day visit to Mexico City Wednesday, capping a trip in which he drew attention to Mexico's economic changes as well as the plight of unaccompanied immigrant children in the U.S.
Mr. Brown's visit to Mexico, his state's biggest export market, achieved few concrete accords, but it was long on ceremony, meetings and signings of memorandums of understanding. The governor, meanwhile, spoke with several Mexican officials including President Enrique Peña Nieto, who met privately with the 76-year-old Democrat.
The governor's trip was subsidized by California businesses eager to expand in rapidly privatizing Mexico, as well as lobbyists, activists and other state capital insiders.
With an international stage and heavy coverage from the Mexican press, Mr. Brown, seeking a fourth term this fall, seized the opportunity to declaim on a variety of issues, including climate change, immigration policy, wait-times at the San Diego-Tijuana border and the shortcomings of online education offerings.
The governor's sojourn south came as Mexico rapidly implements changes to its economy pushed by Mr. Nieto, including the opening of the country's oil and gas sectors and new laws seeking to loosen up the fixed-line and mobile telecommunications sectors.
Mr. Brown warned of his state's own issues with deregulating the energy market. Those warnings made headlines in Mexico, leading Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal to try to reassure Mr. Brown at a closing ceremony.
"After the good job the legislators have done on that, the regulatory framework will follow along those lines to protect the national interest," he said at a breakfast banquet for Mr. Brown at the Club de Industriales, a high-rise sanctuary in Mexico City for elite business and political interests.
While the trip was ostensibly focused on trade, immigration policy and climate change were the two subjects Mr. Brown addressed most often and most passionately, speaking in detail on the surge of unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S. border and linking the two topics at an event Monday.
"We can see how some are fearful of children walking across the border," Mr. Brown said at the signing of a voluntary climate-change agreement with Mexico's Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. "What will they think when millions of people are driven north from the parched landscapes of a world degraded by intensifying climate change?"
Mr. Brown described California's relationship with Mexico as older than the one his state has with the "government in Washington." After convening a Tuesday meeting with Catholic bishops from Los Angeles, Mexico and Guatemala, Mr. Brown pledged to do "whatever can be done by a mere governor" to aid the surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America at the border.
"Certainly, I'd do everything I could to make sure California will do its part to shelter any young children that are in need of protection," Mr. Brown said. "I certainly support additional shelters to deal with the particular immediate challenge we have."
Jessica A. Levinson, a law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who focuses on law and politics, called the trip largely "symbolic," but still significant given California's size and importance in the U.S.
"Symbolism matters in politics," she said. "[Gov. Brown] is very clearly staking out a position on the immigration debate and the fact that he went to Mexico at this time and signed all of these agreements is significant."
Bill Whalen, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, said that Mr. Brown's comments in Mexico weren't enough, and, as the governor of the state with the nation's largest immigrant population, he needed to go to Washington and "offer a middle-of-the-road solution to unraveling the knot that is immigration reform."
Throughout his trip, Mr. Brown seemed to relish his tightly packed schedule, which was condensed further by the addition of last-minute meetings with President Nieto and the bishops. Mr. Brown also seemed to enjoy taking light jabs at Republicans, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, chiding his decision to send National Guard troops to the Texas border and describing his relationship with House Majority Leader-elect Kevin McCarthy as one "that probably needs further development."
He even ribbed the fancy trappings and accommodations provided by the California Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the trip.
"This is the glitziest thing I've ever seen," he said on his first night in Mexico. "But this is the way Republicans live, so let's enjoy it."
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