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Group seeks one-year laser visa delay
Valley Morning Star ^ | 10/03/2001 | Steve Taylor

Posted on 10/03/2001 1:21:09 AM PDT by RGVTx

Group seeks one-year laser visa delay

Valley Morning Star
AUSTIN — A border advocacy group wants Gov. Rick Perry to use his relationship with President Bush to get the introduction of Mexican laser visas delayed by one year.

The Texas Border Infrastructure Coalition also wants Perry to go on Mexican TV and, in Spanish, tell potential tourists that the Texas-Mexico border is open and that they are welcome.

Following a TBIC meeting in Austin Tuesday, chairwoman Dolores Briones tried to visit with Texas Secretary of State Henry Cuellar to see what more could be done to help border communities suffering from a downtown in trade since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The visit, which coincided with Cuellar’s shocking resignation as Secretary of State, was canceled at the last minute.

"We need the Governor and the Secretary of State to help on this and we need the help now," said Briones, an El Paso County judge. "The reality is our economies are hurting. We need to act to improve security and commerce. I see no contradiction in asking for the laser visa rules to be delayed and security improved."

At their meeting, TBIC members, representing border communities from Brownsville to El Paso, gave first-hand accounts of the reductions in border traffic since Sept. 11 and the chronic shortage of Immigration and Naturalization Service personnel at ports of entry.

Mike Perez, McAllen city manager, said crossings at the McAllen-Hidalgo International Bridge had dropped by 30 percent since Sept. 11 but that customs officials were doing a good job in getting people across. Perez estimated that on Monday — the first day of the new laser visa laws — car traffic had dropped 30 percent and truck traffic 50 per cent.

"The big problem is there has been a lot of false information put out, both in the U.S. and Mexico, that the bridges are closed," said Perez.

Officials from El Paso said their ports of entry had seen a 50 percent drop in passenger vehicles and two and three hour waits. Laredo officials said they had seen a 28 percent decrease in trade since Sept. 11, and that 500 trucks were turned back Monday because drivers did not have the new laser visas. Eagle Pass representatives said their bridge revenues were down 25 percent.

"I’d like to see Governor Perry take out 20 or 30 second spots on Mexican TV to assure visitors we are open for business," said Steve Ahlenius, McAllen Chamber of Commerce president and CEO. "He should also be contacting the Mexican president to get these rumors dispelled that the bridges are closed."

TBIC also agreed to push for more INS personnel, an expanded role for U.S. Border Patrol agents, and the temporary deployment of the Texas National Guard to help with border security.

"I’m very keen on having the National Guard involved at the border," said Edinburg Mayor Joe Ochoa. "We are being told that INS is currently at half strength and that customs staff are having to help with security. That is work that the National Guard could do, if only on a temporary basis."

Kathy Walt, press spokeswoman for Perry, said the governor supported a recent letter sent by Arizona Gov. Jane Hull on behalf of the Association of Border Governors to Congress pushing for an extension on the laser visa deadline.

"This is a federal issue but the governor’s office is monitoring the situation and discussing what steps available to him," said Walt.


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©2000, Valley Morning Star, a Freedom Communications, Inc. Company. All rights reserved.

This article appeared in the Valley Morning Star, the Rio Grande Valley's newspaper.

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
The local economy is already hurting from the new border crossing laws, but I'm not sure I want to sacrifice border security for economic concerns.

I think we should take the economic hit for now and wait for a pick up in the economy when the legal border crossers get their visas in order.

1 posted on 10/03/2001 1:21:09 AM PDT by RGVTx
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Let's face it. Our whole lapse in security has been caused by economic considerations. This is more of the same. We have the choice of considering the welfare of the nation as a whole in the form of additional security or toadying to some special interests. I don't think the choice should be hard to make.
2 posted on 10/03/2001 4:10:02 AM PDT by meenie
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To: meenie
I agree. Economy should not be given priority over security.
3 posted on 10/03/2001 10:23:06 AM PDT by RGVTx
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