Op-ed: Why Mexico Will Always Play Second Fiddle

May 10, 2013

President Obama visits Mexico President Enrique Pena NietoBy George E. Condon Jr., National Journal, 5/9/2013

President George W. Bush was the picture of confidence as he sat in the Roosevelt Room talking to a small group of reporters about the upcoming visit of Mexican President Vicente Fox. Sipping on a Diet Coke and loudly crunching ice on this September day in 2001, Bush proclaimed the start of a new era in U.S. relations with its neighbor to the south. “The United States has no more important relationship in the world than the one we have with Mexico,” he declared firmly. Seven days later, terrorists struck in New York City and Washington, and that relationship suddenly didn’t seem quite as important as the alliances with countries ready to send troops to support American aims. U.S.-Mexico was shoved unceremoniously into the background. And Fox, who did not back the U.S. at the United Nations when Bush wanted to go to war with Iraq, found he could no longer get his phone calls returned by the White House.

It was a dramatic reminder that events—more than even presidents—set agendas. And it is a lesson with some relevance to President Obama, who traveled to Mexico last week and repeated some of the now-expected promises to elevate U.S.-Mexican relations in the foreign policy hierarchy. No one doubts the president’s sincerity. He understands the growing importance of trade with Mexico and with the Central American countries, whose leaders he met with last week in Costa Rica. In fact, a main purpose of the trip was to shift attention from the issues of drug cartels, crime, and violence that dominated earlier hemispheric summits. That repositioning came even amid indications that newly elected Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is reconsidering some security cooperation with the United States.

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Obama credits Bush for jumpstarting immigration reform (Video)

April 26, 2013

george-bush1Politico, 4/25/13

President Obama complimented George W. Bush on his character, dedication to country and his legacy, which Obama said includes kickstarting the push for immigration reform.

“Seven years ago, President Bush restarted an important conversation by speaking with the American people about our history as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants, and even though comprehensive immigration reform has taken a little longer than any of us expected, I am hopeful that this year — with the help of Speaker Boehner and some of the senators and members of Congress who are here today — that we bring it home for our families, for our economy, for our security and for this incredible country that we love,” Obama said at the Bush library dedication in Dallas.

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Op-ed: Mr. President, Tear Down This Wall

March 12, 2013

obamaBy Michael Dear, The New York Times, 3/10/2013

Nearly 700 miles of walls now separate the United States and Mexico. Would-be migrants still find ways over, under, through and around them. As a tool for controlling immigration to the United States, the border fortifications have been remarkably ill suited to the task. And yet these barriers are having a significant and lasting effect nonetheless: they are harming communities on both sides of the border.

We should tear them down before the damage becomes irreparable. After Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush instructed the Department of Homeland Security to prioritize the construction of fortifications along the Mexican border. The result has been an astonishing array of barriers across America’s southern frontier. The number of Border Patrol agents doubled in seven years to more than 21,000. And interior enforcement was expanded to identify, detain, prosecute and deport undocumented migrants.

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Is US-Mexico border secure enough? Immigration reform could hinge on answer

March 7, 2013

border_at_Tijuana Tomas CastelazoThe Christian Science Monitor, 3/6/2013

Twenty-five miles north of the line, a giant white canopy stretches over the northbound lanes, with green-shirted border patrol agents and drug-sniffing dogs buzzing around the checkpoint. Farther south in Nogales, Ariz., green-and-white border patrol vehicles are as conspicuous as yellow cabs in New York, and stadium lights trained on the border fence dwarf the rustic Sonoran homes below.

Ten years ago, the permanent checkpoint, the stadium lights, and the ubiquity of those green-and-white cars would have seemed jarring. But since 9/11, America’s southern border has changed. President George W. Bush’s most famous surge might have been in Iraq, but along the US-Mexican border, he also presided over a doubling of manpower and a shift in the border patrol’s mission to make it a tool in the war on terror.

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DHS ‘fusion centers’ portrayed as pools of ineptitude, civil liberties intrusions

October 3, 2012

The Washington Post, 10/2/12

An initiative aimed at improving intelligence sharing has done little to make the country more secure, despite as much as $1.4 billion in federal spending, according to a two-year examination by Senate investigators.

The nationwide network of offices known as “fusion centers” was launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to address concerns that local, state and federal authorities were not sharing information effectively about potential terrorist threats.

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OPINION: Scare tactics on the border

August 17, 2011

The Washington Post, Editorial Board Opinion, 8/17/11

DESPITE A BLOOD-SOAKED drug war that has convulsed Mexico, a broad array of data shows that America’s southwestern border is increasingly safe, secure and, thanks to measures launched by President George W. Bush and sustained by President Obama, much harder for illegal immigrants to cross. Yet against substantial and mounting evidence, Republicans in Congress continue to portray the border as beset by rising violence, out of control and a grave threat to national security.

Given the clear data, it is hard to view these scare tactics as anything but a cynical effort to distort the debate on immigration reform. The intent is to distract Americans from the problem of 11 million immigrants here illegally by pointing to an imaginary wave of crime and instability at the border. Of course, goes the argument, we need immigration reform, but we can’t possibly achieve it until order is restored.

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Feds scrapping ‘virtual’ border fence work: High-tech security project ending after nearly $1 billion spent

October 23, 2010

The Houston Chronicle, 10/23/2010

The Obama administration is preparing to scrap plans to extend the high-tech “virtual” border fence along vast stretches of the 1,969-mile U.S.-Mexico border, ending a troubled and politically contentious security measure inaugurated in 2006 by then-President George W. Bush, the Houston Chronicle learned Friday.

The decision, expected to be announced shortly by the Department of Homeland Security, comes after federal authorities poured nearly $1 billion into a four-year, post-9/11 demonstration project to show that state-of-the-art remote cameras and ground sensors could help U.S. Border Patrol agents intercept undocumented immigrants, drug smugglers or potential terrorists surreptitiously crossing the border.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, a former governor of Arizona keenly familiar with the technical problems afflicting the project, first signaled plans to scrub the “invisible fence” with a series of internal decisions in recent weeks that shifted the year-to-year contract with the prime contractor to a month-to-month contract due to expire on Nov. 21.

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Editorial: Bush right on Ramos and Compean

January 23, 2009

Editorial, Los Angeles Times, 1/23/2009

bush_embassy_photo2Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, the two former Border Patrol agents whose prison sentences were commuted by President Bush this week, made an awful lot of mistakes on that day in February 2005 when they met Osvaldo Aldrete Davila near the U.S.-Mexico border.

This page believes that the agents committed serious felonies and were rightly prosecuted. But the sentences they received were also too long. As we have argued in the past, taking discretion away from judges by imposing mandatory sentencing rules is almost never a good idea. By granting a commutation rather than a full pardon, Bush said — rightly — that the agents’ punishment should be reduced but that the underlying conviction should remain on the books.

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“We will fight this battle together or we will lose together” (in Spanish)

December 30, 2008

tonygarza1Poder, 12/30/2008

U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza speaks candidly in this interview with Poder’s Dolia Estevez about drug trafficking, President Bush, Mexican journalists, and the state of the bilateral relationship.

Garza leaves office on January 20, 2009.

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