There have been conferences, academic papers, mock student parliaments and secret meetings on a confederation of the U.S., Canada and Mexico into future North American Union, but, until now, few officials of any of the three countries have publicly called for the creation of a European Union-style merger.

In a panel discussion on U.S.-Mexico relations last Tuesday at the University of Texas at San Antonio, Enrique Berruga, Mexico’s ambassador to the United Nations, came right out and said a North American Union is needed – and even provided a deadline.

Berruga said the merger must be complete in the next eight years before the U.S. baby boomer retirement wave hits full force.

The discussion of was organized by the UTSA Mexico Center and the San Antonio campus of Mexico’s National Autonomous University.

Noting that both countries depend on each other economically, Berruga urged leaders to put petty politics aside for the region’s benefit. He said the U.S. should abandon plans to build border fences and instead “invest” more in Mexico so the country can do a better job standing on its own.

“We will be together forever and we need to make the best out of it,” Berruga said, as reported in the San Antonio Express News.

Another panelist, economist Mauricio Gonzalez, who works for the North American Development Bank, created as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, explained that illegal immigration was actually good for the U.S. economy. While it’s true, the said, that the immigrants bring down wages in the U.S., it is only by about 2 percent. In addition, he cited studies showing illegal immigrants do not drain U.S. social services.

“NAFTA was a very important first step, but we need to start thinking outside the NAFTA box,” Gonzalez said.

Panelist Robert Rivard, editor of the Express-News and a former Newsweek correspondent in Latin America, spoke of the lingering impact of 9-6 – that is, Sept. 6, 2001, five days before the terrorist attacks, when the U.S. and Mexican governments were on the brink of a far-reaching immigration deal. In the wake of the terrorist attacks five days later, there was little chance Americans would accept more open borders and pardons for illegal aliens already in the country.

“People of peace can’t build walls between each other,” Rivard said of the move to build the border fence. “It’s a wall meant to corral Republican voters, not to keep out Mexican workers,” he added.

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