Event Recap: "Perspectives from the U.S.- Mexico Border Region"

On Friday, NDN/New Policy Institute was proud to host our latest in a series of events on the U.S.-Mexico relationship and developments in our border region. This event, titled “Perspectives from the U.S.-Mexico Border Region,” featured a panel of key mayors from the region and focused on opportunities and challenges unique to the border region. For those who missed the event, you can watch CSPAN’s live recording here.

NDN President Simon Rosenberg moderated the discussion, and Alan Bersin, Assistant Secretary of International Affairs at the Department of Homeland Security, provided opening remarks. The discussion featured Mayors Greg Stanton of Phoenix, Raul Salinas of Laredo, Ken Miyagishima of Las Cruces, and Eduardo Olmos of Torreon, Mexico. Also present at the event were Mayors John Cook of El Paso, Tony Martinez of Brownsville, Bob Filner of San Diego, and Jonathan Rothschild of Tucson.

Simon introduced the panelists and Alan Bersin, and framed the discussion by emphasizing the great importance of the U.S.-Mexico relationship in today’s geopolitical context. “I’ve really come to believe that the most important bi-lateral relationship the U.S. has today is with Mexico,” Simon said.

Bersin delivered opening remarks, stating that “the border is not what it used to be, and the future of the border is not what it used to be,” thanks to great advances in border security. He described the border region as “poised to become a gateway for North American prosperity” due to shared production platforms between the U.S. and Mexico, and urged lawmakers to remember that strengthening the border today should focus on investment in infrastructure and managing cross-border flows.

Mayor Stanton started the panel by saying that mayors will be “where the rubber meets the road” on the effort to bolster the U.S.-Mexico economic relationship. “Shame on us if we don’t take better advantage of the growing economic giant to the south,” he said, adding he feels a responsibility to remind citizens of the importance of this economic relationship, especially in light of the state’s occasionally contentious immigration debate. “In my state, we badly need comprehensive immigration reform,” Stanton said. “We should never let the need for stronger border security get in the way of immigration reform and increasing trade with Mexico.”

Mayor Salinas echoed Mayor Stanton’s call for immigration reform, stating that “El momento es ya—the moment is now—for immigration reform. We’ve been waiting too long.” Salinas called upon Americans to recognize the economic contribution of hardworking immigrants rather than keeping “11 million people in the shadows.” He also stressed the importance of Mexican commerce in Laredo, which is the entry point for up to 12,000 trucks doing trade with Mexico daily. “It is not the American way to turn our back on a nation that is doing so much to help us create jobs,” he said.

Next, Mayor Miyagishima negated media reports that U.S. border cities are insecure, saying that “our cities are safe and open for business.” He described the need to increase border infrastructure, implement a firm but fair immigration policy, and improve economic partnerships between U.S. and Mexican cities. Miyagishima expressed his optimism for the future U.S.-Mexico relationship, saying that we should expect to see more trade with Mexico thanks to the president’s mandate.

Mayor Olmos of Torreon, Mexico, closed the panel by discussing the importance of local and city governments in building security on the southern side of the border. As a mayor from a northeastern Mexican state that shares a border with Texas, Olmos described the Obama administration’s pivotal role in improving security and safety, but emphasized that there remains much work to be done on the Mexican side of the border.

Below please find Assistant Secretary Alan Bersins remarks: