This is my twenty-third year of living along the border here in El Paso, Texas next to Cd. Juarez.
From my window, I can see two of our ports of entry. I also spent four years as President of the El Paso Foreign Trade Association years ago working on the the funding, staffing, and creation of the first Dedicated Commuter Lane (DCL) in the State of Texas. The whole concept of the DCL is trying to reduce the haystack of those crossing the border by creating an expedited crossing option for those vetted by the government. The communities in the US and Mexico along our southern border have a complex and interwoven history, but we are used to working out solutions. Another developments have been through the Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, the FAST lane, and the installation of technologies such license plate readers, radiation monitors, etc.
The violence in Cd. Juarez that we currently witness must end. El Paso is one of the safest cities of its size in the United States, but we have friends in Cd. Juarez who have had family members killed or kidnapped. My son, who is an 8th grader in El Paso, has a friend at school whose parent was gunned down. The relationship between Cd. Juarez and El Paso is a long and close one. We are vecinos and compadres. We share both in the challenges and benefits of being along the border. There are many who do not respect our true economic and cultural partnership with Mexico. In addition, some attempt to paint the issue of the flow of undocumented migrants to the US for work with the same brush as those gang members, who infiltrate the US as part of an international smuggling and trafficking network. This type of hyperbole does not address facts.
Bottom line, we must use our enforcement wisely, and enforcement without other cooperative efforts is not the final solution…. The US and Mexico should seek to seize the assets and operations of those who profit from such illegal activity and to cooperate more intensely on intelligence sharing. The US must end the illegal exportation of arms and money from the US to fund cartels operating in Mexico and elsewhere. Certainly, we are seeing increased attention to the problem with President Obama’s recent increase in enforcement support. Even with all of this enforcement activity and violence, Moody’s Investors Services this month noted that Mexico is not in danger of losing its investment grade rating. This statement as well as the Mexican government’s actions in Cd. Juarez to try to control the violence is not evidence of any current failure of state reaction, but instead an aggressive response to such violence.
Now, we know that CBP with assistance from local law enforcement and other enforcement officers will be conducting outbound inspections in El Paso trying to reduce the flow of money and weapons to Mexico. CBP as usual will have its hands full trying to facilitate legitimate trade and travel while interdicting illegal activties. It is important though for those within the beltway and away from the border to separate the problem of the emigration of weapons and money to Mexico and cartel violence from the issue of controlling the illegal entry of the undocumented to the US to find work. Both require complicated solutions, but are totally different problems. Conflating the two (eg working without authorization with trafficking) is similar to ignoring the difference between civil and criminal violations of law. (yes – illegal entry is a misdemeanor 8 USC 1325). We have had no mass influx from Mexico during these difficult times.
El Paso has some serious border fences, but the challenges and opportunities of the border region are not resolved by a fence nor should all enforcement related efforts be focused upon just the border. A layered enforcement approach is key to any true claims of success, and plans to address illegal migration or the horrible issue of drug trafficking or human smuggling require the same cooperative and comprehensive type of approach. The US has to operate effectively within the reality of our current global environment – no matter the issue at hand.