Border Legislators Encourage Continued Cooperation
By Edgar Ruiz, deputy director, CSG-WEST
Legislators attending the Border Legislative Conference in late September adopted a declaration that, among other things, encourages U.S. and Mexico federal and state authorities to cooperate on efforts to combat organized crime and enhance the security of the border region.
The declaration also:
Promotes the development of joint, binational commissions to address human trafficking;
Encourages private and public sector utilities to invest in energy conservation and efficiencies; and
Encourages long-term planning regarding water resources and policies as they are affected by climate change.
Legislators also expressed interest in enhancing cooperation between the executive and legislative branches by working with the Border Governors Conference Work Tables to convene joint forums aimed at addressing common interests.
Alejandro Estivill Castro of Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told attendees the four areas of critical importance in the U.S.-Mexico relationship are security, economic growth and competitiveness, migration and transforming border infrastructure. Daniel Darrach, coordinator of U.S.-Mexico Border Affairs for the U.S. State Department, said several programs address these areas, including the Merida Initiative, which provides resources for equipment and enhances the tactical capabilities of both countries to fight crime.
Other sessions at the 18th Border Legislative Conference held in Santa Monica, Calif., also focused on binational concerns such as public safety, economic competitiveness, agriculture and managing climate variability along the border region.
Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, chair of the Conference of Western Attorneys General, said growing violence along the border region is a result of organized crime syndicates vying for power in the lucrative international drug trade. The border region, Goddard said, has become a refuge for criminals trying to escape prosecution by their respective countries. As such, U.S. and Mexico state and federal law enforcement officials have increased their efforts to share information and conduct dual investigations to eradicate organized crime operations, including drug smuggling, human trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering.
Goddard discussed the large number of weapons, including long-guns such as AK-47s and others, sold in the U.S. and transported to Mexico and used by organized crime. He said state law enforcement officials are working with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as part of that agency’s E-Trace Program to trace the sale of illegal arms. Goddard’s office developed a Web site that provides Mexico law enforcement access to information regarding stolen vehicles.
Manuel Molano Ruiz of the Mexican Institute of Competitiveness and Boris Kozolchyk of the National Law Center for Inter-American Free Trade offered recommendations to enhance the economic competiveness of the border region. Those recommendations included reducing wait times at commercial border crossings by making them more efficient and by promoting uniform commercial practices on both sides of the border.
Rayne Pegg of California’s Department of Food and Agriculture, told attendees farmers will need to better understand the needs of foreign markets to remain competitive in the future because demands dictate production methods. She also implored lawmakers to focus on enhancing food safety and to institute policies and programs that help gain the confidence of consumers.
Jose Zavala Alvarez of the College of the Northern Border said there is an increasing risk in relying more and more on agriculture imports to sustain demands in Mexico. Furthermore, Zavala Alvarez said. Mexico needs to provide greater support for its agriculture industry through incentives and other programs.
Daniel Chacon of the Border Cooperation Commission said climate change will drastically affect the function and operation of existing water infrastructure along the border region, including hydropower, structural flood defenses, drainage and irrigation systems and water management practices. He recommended the development of state-by-state inventories, the establishment of reduction goals, and information-sharing of best-practices for the general public.
Gene Rodrigues of Southern California Edison encouraged participants to ensure that public and private utilities are investing in renewable and efficient energy sources and practices, as such efforts not only save customers’ money but also to benefit the environment. “The cleanest kilowatt hour that a customer can use is the one that didn’t need to be generated,” Rodrigues said.
The BLC is binational mechanism of cooperation among legislators of the 10 U.S-Mexico border states. The BLC forms part of the U.S.-Mexico Alliance Partnership, a partnership between the U.S. Agency for International Development, CSG, the Conference of Western Attorneys General and the National Association of State Treasurers that promotes binational exchanges among state legislators, attorneys general, treasurers and other officials of the U.S. and Mexico. For more information about the Alliance Partnership, contact Edgar Ruiz, CSG-WEST deputy director, at (916) 553-4423.