Eric Olson and Chris Wilson of the Mexico Institute are currently driving the entirety of the Texas-Mexico border, beginning in El Paso/Ciudad Juarez, ending in Brownsville/Matamoros, and blogging along the way.
Day One, 2nd Entry : At a meeting today, El Paso Mayor John Cook informed Eric and I that a stray bullet from a Ciudad Juarez gunfight had wounded a woman in downtown El Paso. He suspected this tragic incident would only complicate the challenge he faces on a daily basis: convincing firms and visitors that El Paso is safe and open for business. Despite the fact that El Paso is one of the safest cities of its size in the country according to FBI crime statistics, Mayor Cook has found his message difficult to swallow for a public accustomed to thinking of the border region as dangerous and wild.
We also me with UTEP professor Joe Heyman and the Border Patrol. One thing that everyone seemed to be in agreement on was that the image of the border in much of the press and political discourse is out of step with the reality on the ground. There is not doubt that the Border Patrol sees itself as the front line of U.S. defenses, but the El Paso sector looked pretty sleepy compared to the hotbed of migrant activity it was five or ten years ago. Whether as a result of the U.S. economic downturn, increased border enforcement, or both, the number of unauthorized migrants attempting to cross the border is now just a fraction of the estimates from the past decade–a reality readily apparent along the border yet conspicuously absent from too many discussions about immigration at the national level.
Eric and I are on our way to El Paso, where we meet up with Erik Lee of Arizona State’s North American Center for Transborder Studies (NACTS) and begin our research trip. We will be in the El Paso/Ciudad Juarez area through the end of the work week, discussing issues of border management, regional security, trade, and economic development at meetings with local, state and federal officials, as well as business and civil society leaders.
While the ultimate goal of this trip is to help inform a forthcoming project we are working on with NACTS and COLEF called The State of the Border Report, we hope you find these blog entries an interesting and useful way to get an on-the-ground look at some of the major border management and border region issues.