Napolitano, CBP Officials Explore Southwest Border Security, Prosperity
Southwest border communities face real challenges, but "the reality is that the border is open for business," emphasized Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to border business and community leaders gathered at the U.S.-Mexico Congressional Border Issues Conference in Washington, D.C., yesterday.
Napolitano said that businesspeople across the Southwest border tell her that "misperceptions about the border region are taking an economic toll on their communities." She called on the attendees at the conference-sponsored by the U.S.-Mexico Chamber of Commerce and co-chaired by Reps. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) and Mike McCaul (R-Texas)-to continue communicating about the improving border outlook.
"From all statistical measures, our efforts are working," said Napolitano. She noted that CBP is training Mexican government personnel on operating non-intrusive inspection equipment and recognizing fraudulent documents. "We are committed to continuing to work with Mexico to foster a safe and secure border zone," she said, "while facilitating the legal trade and travel that helps our border regions prosper."
CBP Deputy Commissioner David Aguilar, participating in a conference panel discussion on Mexico-U.S. security cooperation, said that the border today "is about people, trade, commerce and transportation" and that we must focus beyond a legal or geographical boundary line.
To strengthen cross border security and commerce, Aguilar said that in addition to technology, it takes unified efforts and "a coalition of the willing." He applauded those assembled and others for their "high passion" for the issues, noting that they are addressing the complexities of the border because "we are citizens of our countries that have a high interest in what's best for our nations."
Joining a panel on developing border trade, commerce, infrastructure and tourism, CBP Assistant Commissioner Thomas Winkowski said that success in those realms depends on innovation in addition to infrastructure. The recent opening of additional Southwest border crossings has been rewarding, "but we have to make sure that after we cut the ribbon on those new ports that the equipment and staffing come with them," Winkowski said, and encouraged the audience to join with CBP on public-private solutions.
Winkowski also challenged the audience to consider borders differently with a "process that begins long before the border," he said.
"We need to develop smart borders," added Winkowski, "leveraging technology and reducing transaction costs."
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.