EE.UU. y México reforzarán vigilancia fronteriza

BROWNSVILLE — Their white shirtsleeves rolled up, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and his Mexican counterparts briefly walked the banks of the Rio Grande before announcing an agreement Friday that both nations will cooperate more fully against border crime.
Chertoff also announced more Border Patrol agents will be deployed soon and that more money will be made available to states on the U.S.-Mexico border to help them contribute to the security effort.
Earlier, he outlined the effort in a breakfast speech to the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce in his first visit to the Alamo City.
The meeting here came as the U.S. Senate prepared to debate immigration reform proposals after a year of increased border violence.
Chertoff reiterated the White House’s call for a guest worker program, which he said would be key in focusing U.S. border resources on violent crime.
«We are here to discuss enhancing and increasing our partnership on both sides of the border against a common enemy, which is violence by criminal groups and drug gangs directed at citizens in the United States and in Mexico,» Chertoff said at the Brownsville news conference held a stone’s throw from the Rio Grande.
Mexican Secretary of Government Carlos Abascal Carranza and Secretary of Public Security Eduardo Medina-Mora both said they welcomed the memorandum of understanding that calls for more information sharing and better law enforcement coordination.
«Together we have recognized that security and immigration (problems) are combatable phenomenon,» said Abascal. «Mexico recognizes its responsibility to secure its northern border. And it will continue to do everything it can as well as cooperate with the United States government to eliminate damage to the communities on the border.»
The additional Border Patrol agents will push undocumented immigrants to more remote areas, causing more deaths, predicted the director of the Mexican search and rescue agency that patrols the river’s opposite bank, who was in the Brownsville audience.
The Cabinet officers said the action plan resulted from the desire of both Mexico President Vicente Fox and President Bush to work together against border violence. It has been especially bloody in such cities as Nuevo Laredo, whose police chief and city councilman in charge of public security were gunned down last year.
Though there have been advances in those cases, the criminals haven’t been brought to justice, Medina-Mora said.
He said «shared responsibility and mutual confidence» are key to overcoming drug gangs, illegal immigration and border violence.
In January, a Humvee with a crew of men in military fatigues crossed to the Hudspeth County side of the Rio Grande to support a drug smuggling attempt, then retreated to Mexico as local deputies closed in.
Asked if there’s evidence that Mexico’s military is involved in drug smuggling, Abascal flatly denied it, while Chertoff just focused on the highly publicized Hudspeth County incident.
«Our assessment is the individuals involved in the smuggling were not members of the Mexican military,» Chertoff said. «And in fact, we have a very close relationship with the Mexican military in a wide range of endeavors, making sure both sides of the border are secure.»
Chertoff said a guest worker program, coupled with more technology and agents in the field, would allow for more efficient law enforcement. It would «bring people who only come to the United States to work within a legal framework that will be temporary,» he said.
«And that would allow us to focus our resources on the people we really worry about — violent criminals and drug dealers.»
At the San Antonio breakfast, Chertoff said his department has expanded a program to give states additional funding and flexibility to strengthen the country’s borders and expects to add 3,000 more Border Patrol agents by 2007, he said.
«We’re going to start a major initiative this summer to acquire some of the top-notch 21st-century technology that will give us the ability to operate on our border the way we now operate with our military overseas, using satellite technology, 21st century communications in an integrated system that will allow our Border Patrol to be as effective as it possibly can be.»
«We will be up to 14,000 Border Patrol agents by the end of the 2007 fiscal year, which is almost a 100 percent increase of what we had several years ago,» Chertoff said.
Pedro Espindola, the director of Mexico’s Grupo Beta, which tries to protect would-be immigrants from robbers and other threats on Mexico’s side of the border, said beefing up the U.S. Border Patrol is likely to lead to more deaths.
«The immigrants are always going to look for places to cross where there isn’t surveillance by the United States,» Espindola said in an interview. «But we will be on this side to help them in any way we can.»
Brownsville Mayor Eddie Treviño Jr. said he was frustrated because the news conference was closed to the public for security reasons.
«It would have been nice to be able to hear because the whole reason for this meeting is to address what we deal with on a daily basis,» he said. «It’s hard to reach out when you are pushed away.»
News Researcher Kevin Frazzini contributed to this report.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff tells the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce about the administration’s plans. PHOTO: J. MICHAEL SHORT/SPECIAL TO THE EXPRESS-NEWS
March 7, 2006

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