1:31 pm CST - May 06, 2010
Posted under On The Record
Border Lawmakers Meet with Secretary Napolitano, Mexican Secretary to Discuss Mutual Concerns, Border Security & Trade
Washington, DC – Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) today joined southern border lawmakers and top security officials from the United States and Mexico to discuss the state of affairs between the two countries on Cinco de Mayo, a day which marks the historic triumph of the Mexican people over the French Army in the battle of Puebla in 1862.
Congressmen Solomon Ortiz (D-TX) and Harry Teague (D-NM) hosted the Capitol Hill meeting between the group of border lawmakers and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Mexico Interior Secretary Fernandez Gomez-Mont, Mexico Ambassador to the United States Arturo Sarukhan, ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton and CBP Commissioner Alan Bersin.
“Today, we celebrate the important contributions of Mexican Americans throughout this country and we recognize the mutual priorities shared between the United States and Mexico,” said Congressman Cuellar. “Cinco de Mayo has long been a symbol of unity and patriotism in Mexico’s history and we will continue to support Mexico in its endeavors to uphold safety and civility for its people.”
The group of border lawmakers discussed with Secretary Napolitano, Secretary Mont and other top border officials shared priorities between the U.S. and Mexico, including the $1.3 billion Merida Initiative, a cooperative partnership between the two countries to thwart drug-related violence.
Officials from both countries agreed that a second Merida Initiative is necessary as funding for the current program expires later this year. Officials also recognized an increase in southern border violence, in particular that along Arizona’s southern border and the Texas-Mexico border along the Rio Grande.
Texas members voiced specific concerns on how the recent violence is affecting cross-border trade.
“The popular consensus is that the violence has continued along the border. While both governments are doing what they can to stem the tide, our communities have been affected,” said Congressman Cuellar, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism. “Both CBP and ICE have made substantial progress over the past year in the number of interdictions, seizures and arrests. Still, we need to make specific investments that strengthen judicial systems and social programs in Mexico.”
Mexico’s Interior Secretary Mont highlighted Wednesday a new Federal Police Command Center (FPCC) that was established in Ciudad Juarez as a center for interagency coordination and intelligence gathering. Mont reiterated how the flow of weapons from the United States to Mexico is an ongoing problem, in addition to the level of drug consumption in the United States which continues to finance cartel operations.
Earlier this week, Secretary Napolitano highlighted ongoing efforts on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the unparalleled level of collaboration between the U.S. and Mexico to combat cartel-related violence and illegal trafficking.
Since March 2009, DHS reports that it has doubled the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel assigned to Border Enforcement Security Task Forces and that DHS has expanded the Secure Communities Initiative — which uses biometric information to identify and remove criminal aliens in state prisons and local jails — from 14 to 118 locations.
Since 2007, Congress has increased CBP funding from $8.2 billion to $10.1 billion, and provided an additional $1 billion for border security in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Last month, border lawmakers, led by House Select Intelligence Chairman Congressman Silvestre Reyes (D-El Paso), requested from Congress over $400 million in emergency funding to augment border patrol hires and communications capabilities among Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
If approved by Congress, this funding would be included in the Iraq-Afghanistan war supplemental bill anticipated to move through Congress later this May.
Wednesday’s meeting comes in advance of Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s address to a joint session of Congress later this month.
To learn more about this and other border related issues, please visit: http://www.cuellar.house.gov/Issues/Issue/?IssueID=3833