Arizona Immigration Law, Extreme Border Violence Top Issues at 2010 Border Governors Conference in New Mexico
Navarro, Carlos, SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico
The 2010 Border Governors Conference, held in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Sept. 19-21, stood out more for what occurred away from the annual gathering than what took place in the conference rooms where the chief executives met. The final declarations from the conference were predictable and eerily similar to those made in recent years. The participants urged the US Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform and control the illegal export of weapons from the US into Mexico. They also pledged to continue working to boost trade, reduce pollution, and coordinate communication and law-enforcement capabilities.
But events and developments outside the conference put a special emphasis on these issues. Chief among them was the absence of the governors of Arizona and Texas, underscoring differences of opinion on immigration policy. And concerns about the explosion of violence and insecurity in Mexican border states were exposed in the plea by one of the region's newspapers for a truce with drug traffickers. There were also reports of new efforts by US authorities to dismantle gun-smuggling operations in northern Texas.
Immigration and insecurity concerns dominated the discussions among the governors, even though the two issues have already been addressed multiple times in other bilateral reunions during the past two years SourceMex, April 28, 2010. President Felipe Calderon made these two topics the focus of his address to the US Congress in May of this year SourceMex, May 26, 2010.
The conference's final communique urged the US Congress to approve comprehensive immigration reform that includes offering an opportunity for immigrants already in the US to attain legal status.
"There has to be a national effort, and it's really up to Democrats and Republicans alike. It's not just a partisan issue," Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico told a news conference.
The governors also called on the US to develop a deportation process "based on the fundamental premise of respecting the human dignity and human rights of individuals being repatriated."
Even though immigration issues have come up frequently at past border governors conferences, participants wanted to send a clear message this year.
"The idea is to produce a strong statement that emphasizes that the border between the US and Mexico, a region that is home to 83 million inhabitants, faces common problems and requires agreements and joint solutions," Tamaulipas Gov. Eugenio Hernandez Flores said in a newspaper interview at the start of the conference.
Arizona's SB1070 the elephant in the room
Despite the generalities in the statements regarding immigration, the elephant in the room was Arizona's SB1070 legislation, which lawmakers in that state approved in April of this year. The law requires local law-enforcement officers to stop suspected immigrants and ask for identification SourceMex, April 28, 2010. Critics contend SB1070 violates individual rights because it encourages racial profiling. In July of this year, a US federal judge struck down some of the more controversial aspects of the legislation on the grounds that SB1070 violates federal jurisdiction on immigration SourceMex, July 21, 2010. The government of Arizona has appealed the ruling, but no decision is expected until after the US elections in November.
The disagreement on SB1070 had a far-reaching effect on the gathering of border governors even before the meeting in Santa Fe. The conference was originally scheduled for Phoenix, but the six governors from Mexico, citing SB1070, announced they were boycotting the gathering if it was held in Arizona SourceMex, June 26, 2010. The decision of the Mexican governors to boycott the conference prompted Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to cancel the event altogether.
After Brewer announced her decision, Gov. Richardson and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger agreed to act as co-hosts for a rescheduled gathering this year in Santa Fe. …