Tags: Pandering | Mexico | Ridge | Won't | Militarize | Borders

Pandering to Mexico, Ridge Won't Militarize Borders

Thursday, 28 February 2002 12:00 AM

"Because of the relationship we have and continue to develop and enhance every day with our friends in Mexico, the last thing we want to do is militarize the borders between friends. We want them open, we want them mutually beneficial, and that is simply a temporary measure," Ridge said during a roundtable discussion.

U.S. officials announced earlier this week that National Guard troops would be deployed to the northern and southern borders to assist other agencies with border protection. The announcement came as Ridge prepared to travel to Mexico for talks with officials on border security, immigration and trade issues.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has moved to secure the nation's borders, cracking down on the entry of illegal aliens into the country as well as the movement of cargo into ports and on U.S. roads.

At President Bush's request, Ridge is expected to meet with Mexican President Vicente Fox and Secretary of Government Santiago Creel in advance of Bush's planned visit there March 21 and 22. Ridge hopes to put in place an agreement on security with Mexico similar to that reached with Canada. But he stressed that Mexico might have additional problems with flow of drug traffic into the United States and illegal aliens.

"I think the Canadian accord is a good starting point," Ridge said. "We've framed the issues around security and commerce. They've been working on immigration and drug interdiction before. So it's a good place to start."

The United States has 301 ports of entry where goods and people may enter through 3,700 terminals: border checkpoints. In 2000, 489 million people and 138.5 million trucks and vehicles passed through the U.S. border inspection program, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. The United States, Mexico and Canada trade at the rate of $2 billion per day, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Ridge said few significant bottleneck areas exist that slowed down entry and exit along the borders. He pointed to San Ysidro south of San Diego, which has 20 million vehicles passing through annually. He said "smart card" technology could be an answer to the backlog of people and cargo moving across the border.

Ridge hopes legislation to allow Mexican commercial trucks on U.S. roads would be complete by the time Bush arrives in the region for a visit. Congressional lawmakers have resisted opening U.S. highways to the cargo trucks citing safety concerns.

Also on the agenda for discussion with Mexican officials are immigration issues. In his efforts to change immigration laws, Bush has, in the past, considered providing guest visas that would allow people from foreign countries, particularly Mexico, to come to the United States and work for a year. Administration officials believe it would cut the number of criminals who illegally enter U.S. borders.

"There has been a very high-level working group, with the attorney general and his office, and the U.S. Department of State, to try to address some of these issues, again, with an eye toward working in collaboration with their counterparts in Mexico, to see if between now and when the two presidents get together they can address that," Ridge said. He said the issue has picked up momentum within the administration over the past several weeks.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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Because of the relationship we have and continue to develop and enhance every day with our friends in Mexico, the last thing we want to do is militarize the borders between friends. We want them open, we want them mutually beneficial, and that is simply a temporary measure,...
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2002-00-28
Thursday, 28 February 2002 12:00 AM
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