The Impact of U.S. Border Security on Transborder Cooperation with Mexico

August 21, 2003 // 12:00pm2:00pm

Jose María Ramos discussed the challenges for U.S.-Mexico cross-border cooperation, especially in the San Diego-Tijuana region. He detailed a series of transnational concerns including unemployment, high poverty rates, and drug trafficking. Similarly, cross-border transportation, environmental infrastructure, public health, and economic development present major challenges for cross-border cooperation. Ramos argued that further cross-border understanding of these issues was necessary since they are relevant for both Mexico and the United States and not merely domestic questions.

Ramos noted that the main problem that undermines the effectiveness of Mexican officials in addressing these issues effectively is that local and state levels officials do not have enough leverage in relation to the national government. The lack of decentralization of border policy makes it difficult for them to deal with key areas of concern strategically. U.S. border policy, on the other hand, has focused almost exclusively on drugs and illegal immigration during the past 50 years, and has been unable to address other key areas of concern systematically.

Today, security, migration, and free trade are major issues that need to be balanced at the border. New approaches must be found to integrate all of these disparate topics. The new security context after September 11, 2002 has caused a reevaluation of border security issues in both countries; however, there is as yet no clear strategy on how to integrate all of the concerns. He recommended the decentralization of border policy operations as much as possible to state and local governments to improve local coordination.

John Bailey observed that the major challenge at the U.S.-Mexico border is the lack of fit between U.S. and Mexican concerns. The Mexican government's main concerns center on migration while the United States government has its priorities set on security. To date there has been insufficient debate in each country about the issue that is of greatest priority to the other. In addition, Bailey also argued that customs checkpoints need to be moved away from the border to reduce pressure at the major crossing points. This proposal is polemical because it suggests that Mexican and American officials would operate within each other's territory.

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