A leading source for news and analysis about Mexico and the U.S.-Mexican border.
Bersin talks with PRI Senate candidate Eligio Valencia
By David Gaddis Smith
Homeland Security official Alan Bersin on Thursday told border mayors that perception lags reality in the progress the United States and Mexico are making.
Bersin, assistant secretary of international affairs for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, spoke in Tijuana to the U.S.-Mexico Border Mayors Association, which was formed in August in El Paso.
Bersin said there often is a lag of two to three years for people to realize what changes have occurred. He noted that Mexico is the largest trading partner for 36 of the 50 U.S. states. He said the U.S. is probably $6 billion behind on building border infrastructure. "That is why the wait at the border is so long for both passengers and for commercial traffic." He said efforts to pre-inspect cargo entering the United States is allowing goods to cross the border more rapidly and in effect allows the U.S. "to double the size of our infrastructure."
The border mayors group met at Tijuana's World Trade Center during the day; Bersin gave his talk at El Cubo in the Tijuana Cultural Center. Twelve mayors attended. The group, co-chaired by Tijuana Mayor Carlos Bustamante and El Paso Mayor John Cook, was set up to try to get more action by both the U.S. and Mexican federal governments to resolve border issues. Cook, for example, said more aid is needed to help Mexican border communities deal with repatriations and help them return Mexicans who have been deported to their home communities.
Earlier in the day, Sen. Manlio Fabio Beltrones told the group that perhaps the best result of the Mérida Initiative was getting U.S. and Mexican officials working together. "It made us lose our fear of interaction," he said, adding, "It's certainly not the money, which often does not arrive very quickly." He lamented that some institutions such as Nadbank have not progressed much past infancy, saying he would like to see it driving more border infrastructure projects. He reminisced about the more open border of his youth, where relatives on either side could cross easily to visit each other. He said that while he had been elected as governor of Sonora, elected as a legislator and has served in other top posts, he never was elected mayor. Still, he said he has learned greatly from mayors' political and administrative skills, and said formation of the mayors' group was an important step for both countries. He also called for, instead of a border wall, for a wall of jobs for both countries. "Together, we have greater value," he said.
He concluded by saying of the need to continue losing the fear of cooperation between the two nations: "It's identifying the common enemy, which is not our two countries, but crime. It's understanding that if we don't act together, we will both have to live with major (joint) problems for a long time."
In the video, he often addresses Señor Secretario, which is Bersin:
0:40 - He calls for wall of jobs, not border wall
1:03 - Says border mayors' conclusions can help countries; Nadbank criticized
2:16 - Reminisces about more open border of his youth
3:21 - Mérida Initiative; Mexicans, Americans need to lose fear of each other
Beltrones had hopes of becoming the Institutional Revolutionary Party's presidential nominee, but polls gave former Mexico state Gov. Enrique Peña Nieto such a wide lead that Beltrones dropped out of the race in November.
San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, Ensenada Mayor Enrique Pelayo, Sen. Manlio Fabio Beltrones, Tijuana Mayor Carlos Bustamante, Homeland Security official Alan Bersin, El Paso Mayor John Cook and Ciudad Juárez Mayor Héctor Murguía at the conference. Above Bustamante is Mexicali Mayor Francisco Pérez Tejada.
San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders said resolutions passed by the group and other information he gained from the conference will help him during his upcoming trip to Washington to discuss border infrastructure and other issues.
The conference took place at Tijuana's World Trade Center next to El Trompo museum in eastern Tijuana. One vehicle in the parking lot had a large decal for PRI presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto on its back window, as well as a bumper sticker for PRI Sen. Fernando Castro Trenti, who hopes to run for Baja California governor next year and who was in attendance at the conference. The Peña Nieto decal has little dots in it that allow the driver see through the back window.
The Tijuana newspaper Frontera dedicated seven pages to the mayors' conference:
The resolutions the mayors adopted (PDF).
Bersin and Beltrones' talks (PDF).
Group picture, who was there (PDF).
Border wait times decried (PDF).
San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders discusses San Diego's vulnerability to terrorism and State Department's Mexico travel warning (PDF).
CBP's Chris Maston discusses Ready Lanes (PDF).
Update, Feb. 13: Frontera's social page on the event (PDF).