US Border Security Begins in Mexico

US Border Security Begins in Mexico

In the 2016 presidential election cycle, illegal immigration was generally attributed to Mexican migrants and a border wall was prescribed to prevent them from entering the United States. While the rhetoric resonated with many voters, it belied the vastly more complex trends in illegal border crossings and what is needed to address them. Most undocumented migrants arriving at the US border today are not Mexican, and a border wall will not affect what happens when they arrive.

Last year, Border Patrol apprehended nearly 409,000 people attempting to illegally cross the southwest border, a dramatic increase from the 331,000 in 2015, though somewhat less than the high mark of 479,000 in 2014. Last year, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Border Patrol apprehended 59,757 unaccompanied children and 77,857 family units, respectively a 13 percent decline and 12 percent increase from 2014. Border apprehensions are often an indicator of how many people are entering the United States undetected, but the numbers in 2016 do not tell the whole story.

According to the Pew Research Center, there was no statistically significant change in the illegal immigrant population in the United States between 2009 and 2014. But that does not mean illegal entries have stalled. From 2009 to 2014, 13 states saw a change in the size of their unauthorized immigrant populations. In states where illegal populations decreased, it was because illegal Mexican residents left. In states where illegal populations increased, it was due to a growth in the number of residents from countries other than Mexico, which in many cases are those in Central America’s “Northern Triangle” (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras). Last year, the number of apprehensions from Central America exceeded those from Mexico, the second time that trend has been seen, with the previous instance in 2014.

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Confirmation of DHS intelligence head is too important to politicize

Confirmation of DHS intelligence head is too important to politicize

Most Americans have never heard of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Yet, in January, acting Under Secretary for I&A David Glawe found himself on national television attempting to explain in less than two minutes what the office he leads will do in the face of the Trump administration’s much-debated “travel ban.”

For the lay viewer with no awareness of I&A, it suggested political participation where there is none. With Glawe’s nomination to permanently lead I&A, there is more politicking on the horizon, but this is a mistake — one that can be avoided if we put security before partisanship.

I&A is the only member of the intelligence community charged with sharing threat intelligence with state, local, tribal, territorial and private sector partners, as well as receiving information from those partners to share with DHS and the intelligence community. This mission is a direct answer to problems identified in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

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Righting a NAFTA wrong on trucking

Righting a NAFTA wrong on trucking

logo.pngBy: Nelson Balido

Democratic politics in the early 1990s looked a lot different than they do today.

U.S. Federal Maritime Commission Chairman Mario Cordero expects congestion at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to ease in the next couple weeks, but, in the meantime, he said the agency is scrutinizing the PierPass program.

The idea that a governor from Arkansas, one of a dwindling number of southern Democrats, could run a credible campaign — much less win the White House — seemed a pipe dream, especially in a party still shaking off the haze of the doomed campaigns of Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis.

But Clinton didn’t run as traditional Democrat. Instead, he supported things like greater choice in education, and pro-business agenda items such as free trade. Organized labor certainly helped his campaign, but he didn’t owe his victory to the one-time prime mover in traditional Democratic politics.

The 1992 Clinton-Gore ticket burnished its New Democrat agenda by supporting — albeit lukewarmly at first — passage and implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which would create a super-trade bloc of the United States, Canada and Mexico. In the first year of the Clinton presidency, the administration went all-in to get NAFTA passed through Congress.

Despite one-time electoral rival Ross Perot’s warning of the “giant sucking sound” of jobs leaving the U.S., the argument that knocking down high tariffs and opening new markets were critical to allowing American manufacturing to grow won over Congress and the public.

In November 1993, Congress passed the agreement and the president signed it into law on Dec. 8, 1993. Organized labor had been dealt a setback. Suddenly, it no longer had the same sway over Democratic members of Congress it had once enjoyed. Trucking was the area where labor could shift the trade debate.

Under NAFTA, trucks from Mexico were to be able to enter the U.S. interior carrying loads originating in Mexico. The inefficient border zone loading and unloading was to be a thing of the past.

The Teamsters and their allies took aim at NAFTA’s trucking articles with a level of rhetoric that bordered on the absurd. Rep. Pete DeFazio, D-Ore., referred to Mexican trucks as “rumbling death traps.” North Dakota Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan took to the Senate floor to give a speech on the Mexican trucking industry that would have listeners believe Mexican trucks were held together with chewing gum and bailing wire, were driven by drivers who were, at best, overly tired, and at worst, under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The leadership of the U.S. Department of Transportation came under fire, too. The Teamsters in 2008 called for the firing of Transportation Secretary Mary Peters in a nasty campaign featuring radio ads, direct mail and attack ads befitting a contested congressional race.

Attempts to allow Mexican trucks beyond the border zone under pilot programs came and went without success. In 2007, the Bush administration launched a limited pilot program to permit Mexican-domiciled trucks to the U.S. interior. That pilot is known more for the court battles it sparked than for any substantive changes to cross-border logistics.

Mexico was growing impatient. Under the terms of NAFTA, Mexico could have slapped retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods, making them more expensive in the Mexican market and hurting overall U.S. competitiveness. Suddenly, the debate was about more than the transportation world. Members of Congress in breadbasket states risked their states’ exports losing a foothold in the world market.

With sanctions looming, it was up to the Obama administration to try again. In the fall of 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration began a three-year pilot program to allow Mexican long-haul carriers to operate throughout the United States. To participate, the Mexican carriers had to undergo a rigorous review before being granted entry.

The program was hardly a hot ticket. From 2011 through last month, only 13 Mexican companies received permission to participate, fueling critics’ charges that so few companies participated in the pilot that there was nothing of substance to glean from the program.

Was that because the regulations placed on the Mexicans were so onerous, or was it due to lack of interest?

The long-established cross-border trade routes aren’t going away overnight if and when full access to the U.S. interior is granted to Mexican carriers.

Distribution centers in border communities such as El Paso and Laredo have existed for decades because they provide shippers the ability to get products to market reliably. Tough U.S. hours of service rules imposed on drivers aren’t likely to be rescinded. And without well-established business relationships, Mexican carriers will to be hesitant to make the trip into the interior unless they can bring back full trailers to Mexico. All of this amounts to a trucking system unlikely to prove attractive to more than a few Mexican carriers.

But despite what looks like minimal impact on binational cross-border trade, the inability to put the NAFTA trucking issue to rest should serve as an embarrassment to the U.S. That we can’t come to some commonsense agreement with one of our largest trading partners and southern neighbor unnecessarily taints what should be one of our strongest strategic relationships.

Meanwhile, we negotiate other trade deals, further staining our credibility. How can we be trusted to carry out new agreements in good faith if we can’t even be counted on to implement something that, in the scheme of world trade, is so trivial?

It’s long past time for the U.S. to solve this issue. But if past performance is an indication of future results, I’m not holding my breath.

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