Editorial: Optics of Brown’s Mexico trip play well on both sides of the border

Deals that Gov. Jerry Brown brokered on his four-day trade mission to Mexico last week look pretty good on paper.

Among other things, Brown signed agreements to work more closely with Mexico to develop and implement renewable technology and to reduce carbon emissions. He signed others that promise more educational exchange, a pilot program to stop corruption in a temporary worker program and to expand trade.

These are great goals, but these agreements are little more than symbolic and only as good as the follow-through by Brown and his administration.

The governor met, too, with telecommunications magnate Carlos Slim, the world’s second-richest man. It was a private meeting, though, and the governor wouldn’t say about what.

Ironically, his lasting legacy of this trip may well be the one thing Brown didn’t prepare for – being a voice of reason on immigration from the northern side of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Despite weeks of this brewing crisis of thousands of unaccompanied minors streaming through Mexico to the U.S., Brown hasn’t had much to say. Nor were there specific immigration issues on his trip’s agenda even a few days before he left for Mexico City. It was a baffling omission considering this is the single biggest and most enduring news event to straddle our mutual border and would most likely come up informally.

It did.

Brown held joint photo ops or press conferences with the likes of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and other officials on various economic deals. But the Spanish-language and Mexican journalists were more interested in asking about the border crisis.

No surprise there; this is bigger news in both the U.S. and Mexico than non-specific, non-binding deals that may or may not ever have quantifiable results.

Days before Brown’s trip, the Mexican ambassador to the U.S., Mexico’s foreign minister and other officials came to meet with The Sacramento Bee editorial board. Questions about immigration and what to do with the thousands of Central American kids in U.S. custody were at the top of our list, too.

Trade and collaboration is all well and good, but what is roiling both sides of the border are things like the failure of the U.S. to reform its broken immigration laws, what to do with the immigrant children and, of course, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and his ridiculous militarization of his state’s portion of the international border.

Brown gets credit for adapting quickly, however. He convened a hastily scheduled meeting with Mexican diplomats and religious leaders to talk about immigration. After a while, he didn’t let any opportunity to mention the plight of migrants slip away.

Of course, the biggest immediate beneficiary from this trip was Brown’s re-election campaign. This delegation list was filled with lobbyists and supporters, who surely will help his fundraising efforts. His stand on immigration no doubt will help him with Latino voters, especially in Southern California.

Brown shouldn’t stop talking about immigration just because he’s back in the U.S. Otherwise the only governor making headlines on this important topic might be one loco Texan.