What Should Mexico Do About Border Control?

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from March 29, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think a system which forces peopl e underground and into the shadows of our society, which causes people to have to sneak across our border and risk their life is a system that needs to be changed.


CHRIS WALLACE, GUEST HOST: The debate over border security to prevent illegal immigration is loud, if not so clear here in the United States. Is there any echo of that discussion in Mexico? The governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, said today Mexico must bare its share of responsibility for securing the border. Governor Richardson joins us tonight from Santa Fe. Governor, welcome. Good to have you with us.


WALLACE: As we mentioned a few moments ago, the president will be meeting with Mexican President Vicente Fox Thursday to discuss this issue. What can and should Mexico do?

RICHARDSON: Well, first of all, the summit between the two presidents should be more than photo-ops. There should be something tangible. This is what Mexico can do. It’s three things. One, fully participate with the United States in joint border patrols to deter illegal immigration.

Secondly, joint efforts to stop some of the smuggling of people and drugs at the border, serious efforts. And then thirdly, a joint border jobs creation plan so that — financed by both countries, by the private sector, too, but Mexico putting up a major effort in those three areas to demonstrate to a Congress that is skeptical of Mexico doing something that they’re ready to be partners.

What is an incentive for Mexico is that they are suffering for the first time an acute labor shortage in their countryside. A lot of their able- bodied young people are migrating to the United States and so that infrastructure of workers is starting to miss.

I think it’s important, even though it’s a president election year in Mexico, that Mexico step up. I think if Mexico steps up, you could possibly get a comprehensive immigration bill.

WALLACE: In fact, up until now, how good a job has Mexico been doing in all the areas of, one, enforcing the border and, two, creating more jobs in Mexico?

RICHARDSON: It’s very mixed. I would say that border governors, my counterpart in Chihuahua, border governors that work with the four border states of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and California do a lot more than the federal government of Mexico.

In the past the reality has been that Mexico’s federal government has seen the flight of immigration as a safety bell. They don’t have to deal with those very poor people that leave. So they’ve seen it as our problem.

Now for the first time, because of the labor migration shortage and for political factors, they’re concerned about how the remittances of the 11 million, in other words, a lot of that’s 11 million undocumented workers send about $20 billion per year to their families in Mexico, so their concerned that that’s not going to stop, that this gives the incentive for Mexico to take some tangible steps.

We’ve got to — we’ve got a good relationship with Mexico. President Bush, be being a former Texas governor, I think can really makes a strong effort to say, look, you’ve got to do your part, Mexico, because otherwise the Congress will pass a bad bill, one that just has border security without the legalization plan.

WALLACE: Governor, as someone who has to deal with the border issue up close and personal every day, what do you think, what do you make of the debate going on here in Washington now as you hear it in Santa Fe over immigration, especially the divide within the Republican Party between the enforcement only camp and the other champ which wants a comprehensive package including some kind of a legal status for illegals here?

RICHARDSON: I have to live with this issue everyday as a border governor, the immigration issue. It causes a lot of strain, criminal activity on my border. This is why I declared an emergency almost six months ago.

My big concern is the congressional talks about passing all these border security bills — they appropriated 265 more border agents for the New Mexico border — but I have yet to see them. It’s tied up in bureaucracy or in training. I need them to happen.

Secondly, I think for the Republican Party, they run the risk, if they push this extreme border security measure, that pass the House with the making a felony and the wall, that will erode the little increase they’ve had in support among Hispanic voters.

Now for Democrats, Democrats should be strongly for the legalization plan, but also for stronger border security because a lot of Americans want the border security and this is important for all of us. We don’t want terrorists, drug smugglers to come in. It can play politically both ways and you’ve got to be careful.

I have found over the years that this immigration issue, it’s not an issue that gets you votes. It loses you votes.

WALLACE: Let me ask you about the enforcement side of this. I know you and the Democrats want a comprehensive package, want some passage to legal status for these illegal immigrants. Let’s talk about the enforcement side because the hard liners have a legitimate point. We’ve got about a minute left. They have a point, too.

You can’t have a great country if you can’t secure your border. Could the kind of enforcement they’re talking about, a 700-mile-long fence, increased border patrols, could that in fact stop the flow of illegals into this country?

RICHARDSON: It’s only going to partially deal with the problem, but it would be progress. I think we need more border patrol agents, more detection equipment, more robotic equipment, more aerial surveillance, more radios, and communication.

Just think a border wall in itself; they’re going to cross over it. It’s a bad symbol. Here’s Mexico and the U.S., friends, but you have a wall. Canada, there’s no wall. You know, it just sends a bad message. But increase dramatically border enforcement, more people, more equipment, and more technology. We’ve got to do that.

WALLACE: Governor, we’re going to have to leave it there. We want to thank you so much. A debate to be continued.

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