New Mexico Governor Declares State of Emergency

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," August 15, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: New Mexico's governor has declared a state of emergency in four counties along the U.S.-Mexico border. He says he made the move because of, "a chaotic situation" involving illegal alien smuggling and illegal drug shipments.

Democrat Bill Richardson has promised $1.5 million to fight crime in those counties. He's also asked to meet with the leader of the volunteer border patrol group, the Minutemen (search). Governor Richardson joins us to talk about this state of emergency.

Governor, we're always worried about drugs and illegal alien smuggling, but what about the potential as a port of entry for terrorists?

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON, D-N.M.: Well, first of all, one thing in your report, I have not asked the Minutemen to do anything. In fact, I don't believe their function is the right one.

But what we have is a situation in the New Mexico (search) border where there is excessive kidnappings, murder, there's excessive illegal alien traffic, drug smuggling. It's a chaotic situation on the terrorist side.

I believe that the Homeland Security Department, with their detection initiatives and others, that the situation may be relatively much better than the chaotic situation on specifically the 180 miles that are on the New Mexico border.

And I took this action, John, to free up funds that we can use in New Mexico for equipment, for additional law enforcement personnel. And what's happened is the federal government of the United States has done very little to help us.

And so my job is to protect my citizens along the New Mexico border in this very chaotic environment.

GIBSON: All right. Now, Governor, we put up a map that shows a lot of the important federal emplacements along the border. And this should illustrate why the terrorism situation would be important to Americans.

But, I've got to go back. According to The Wall Street Journal, you have asked to meet with the volunteer group, the Minutemen. If you're not asking for their help, what do you want to meet with them about?

RICHARDSON: Well, no, that's a total fabrication. In fact, I have said that I don't believe that the Minutemen should proceed into New Mexico, that I think that this is a case for trained law enforcement personnel, Border Patrol, sheriff's department, local New Mexico state police.

So that report is totally false. I don't know where they came up with it. In fact, I have said that I don't believe the Minutemen are needed in New Mexico. In fact, this is why I took this action, to beef up law enforcement hiring in the New Mexico border.

I believe that when you have traffic of illegal drugs, illegal aliens, when we have kidnappings, murders, when you've got cattle mutilations, what's happening in my state, you need trained people to do that. So I don't know where that report came from.

GIBSON: Well, have you got enough — even with this emergency declaration — have you got enough state and federal agencies to watch that border without the help of volunteer citizen groups like the Minutemen?

RICHARDSON: I believe we can, John. I've talked to the Border Patrol (search), and they are sending a rotation of additional officers for the New Mexico border.

Granted it's not going to be enough, but I believe, with the sheriff's department of the four counties that I issued the executive order, overtime pay, additional staffing of $1.7 million dollars, I think we're going to do a lot better job.

It's not going to always be an adequate effort, but it's reaching a point, John, where we need a federal immigration policy. The Congress needs to face up to this problem on the border. They need to give us the resources we need.

For example, the 9/11 commission asked for 2,000 border agents. And the administration's request is only for about 200. So, clearly, there's a lot of finger pointing, but, as a state official, as a governor, I've got to protect my people.

And when my cattlemen, my folks at the border, my police, my drug enforcement agents tell me that it's a chaotic situation, the only option I have to free up funds is basically to declare a state of emergency, and that's what I did. And I found some extra funds to supplement what I believe is still going to be a very difficult effort. But at least we're attacking the problem, where, in the last month or so, we've had almost a chaotic situation.

GIBSON: Democrat Bill Richardson, governor of New Mexico. Governor, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

Mexico is blasting Governor Richardson's move along the border there, saying the declaration, doesn't, "jive with the spirit and understanding needed to address border problems."

Joining me now is Juan Hernandez. He's the author of the forthcoming new book, "The New American Pioneers," and also a former adviser to Mexican President Vicente Fox (search).

So, Mr. Hernandez, you heard the governor there. He had to declare a state of emergency. Any chance Vicente Fox would declare a state of emergency on that side of the border and help out the governor of New Mexico?

JUAN HERNANDEZ, AUTHOR, "THE NEW AMERICAN PIONEERS": Well, first of all, I think that the governor of New Mexico — I don't know how much he's going to be able to do with $1.5 million. We have a border that is around 2,000 miles long. We have over a million people crossing legally every day.

GIBSON: Yes, but he's worried about, he's worried about...

HERNANDEZ: We don't have much of a border. We are two countries that are working side by side now for decades. And we need to work together much closer.

GIBSON: Governor Richardson is worried about four counties, Juan. And those are the four counties where there is a lot of action.

HERNANDEZ: Yes, I understand.

GIBSON: Certainly, Mexico officials know those four counties are a particular place of a point of entry. And you and I have been on this program before. We've talked about this many times. You are a charming man. And you could...

HERNANDEZ: You are, too, John.

GIBSON: You can charm the socks of anybody. But why isn't Mexico doing more, particularly in these four counties? Help out Governor Richardson.

HERNANDEZ: No, Mexico is doing a lot, and George Bush is trying also. Both presidents have been pushing, as you know now, for over four years, to create a new program.

Now, we don't need to close our borders. We don't need a state of emergency. If we would just get our Congress to really move on this, and I think that's one area that I would agree with the governor.

I don't know if he's just trying to get a lot of attention for himself. I don't know what's going on right now. But I really like the governor in some other respects...


GIBSON: Juan, come on. We get communications from people who live on the border all the time, Juan, and they say the same thing the governor does. The say their property is being overrun, their cattle are being destroyed, they're being threatened, they're being shot at. Border agents are being shot at, Juan.

HERNANDEZ: I meet with the same people all the time. But the majority of U.S. Americans, we want a new program, a program in which we check out all the people, the 10 million, if you will, 8 million undocumented, make sure that they don't have a terrorist background. We want them to pay Social Security and taxes. We want them to work on their English. We want them to pay maybe a fine for having coming up as undocumented.

But we want them to be here legally. They would like to come up here legally, also. Let's work with Mexico to create a new program.

GIBSON: But, Juan, that is fine. But let's just say the U.S. Congress does all that. Let's say they listen to George Bush and they pass all that. What's Mexico doing? Mexico is on the other side of the border. What is Mexico doing to stop it?

HERNANDEZ: In Mexico, let me tell you what has happened in Mexico in the last decade. There have been two silent revolutions. It is incredible what has happened in Mexico.

We now have a democracy in Mexico. We now have Vicente Fox that did not have a devaluation of the peso that sometimes was up to 3,000-6,000 percent. It's a country that is stable, that keeps rising. But we need to work together. Can the United States and Mexico, as a block, create opportunities in Mexico so they won't have to come here? But today, Congress needs to wake up and listen to George Bush, Senator Cornyn, Senator McCain, Kennedy, et cetera, and create a program that is fair...


GIBSON: Juan Hernandez is author of forthcoming book, "The New American Pioneers." Juan Hernandez, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

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