Posted on September 27, 2004

Mexican Official Seeks Open Border

Jerry Seper, Washington Times, Sep. 27

Mexico’s newest border czar wants to begin building additional travel lanes at ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border and to increase the number of border crossings into the United States — the first steps, he hopes, toward an open border with no checkpoints.

Arturo Gonzalez Cruz, a Tijuana businessman named in April by President Vicente Fox as the Mexican Foreign Ministry’s institutional liaison for northern border affairs, said access changes along the 1,940-mile U.S.-Mexico border were “necessary” to facilitate increased travel and trade between his country and the United States.

“I would like to see a border similar to the one that Europe has right now . . . where they have common, very common objectives,” he recently told reporters in Tijuana. “They have a common economy. They have policies that transcend their borders where they work with them to get it.”

Travel across national borders in the European Union is unregulated, and citizens of EU member nations traverse borders as freely and easily as Americans cross state lines.

Mr. Gonzalez, who has said he wants to promote “better coordination and cooperation” between the United States and Mexico, is expected to outline his proposals during a keynote address at a Mexico City meeting this week of the Border Trade Alliance.

In his new job, according to the Mexican government, Mr. Gonzalez is responsible for ensuring that border issues involving the Mexican Foreign Ministry are “correctly channeled.” Within Mexico, he also has been asked to formulate that country’s responses to new U.S. border-security measures — particularly in the wake of the September 11 attacks on America.

Mr. Gonzalez, a former president of Mexico’s National Federation of Chambers of Commerce, has said that the location of future ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border is crucial to that country’s trade concerns and that decision-making on their locations, which historically has taken from seven to 10 years, needs to be reduced dramatically.

He replaced Mexican border czar Ernesto Ruffo Appel, former governor of Baja California, who quietly resigned earlier this year after saying government officials in Mexico City “listen to us, but don’t understand” the border.

Mr. Ruffo’s mandate was to promote economic development along Mexico’s northern border, but his commission’s functions often overlapped with those of other government agencies.

Mr. Fox has said he favors open borders across North America and has proposed removing all immigration barriers between Mexico, the United States and Canada, allowing the three nations’ citizens to live and work in the country of their choosing.

At a rally in California after his surprise 2000 election, Mr. Fox said his government would “use all our persuasion and all our talent to bring together the U.S., Canadian and Mexican governments so that in five or ten years, the border is totally open to the free movement of workers.”

In January, shortly after President Bush proposed a temporary guest-worker program for illegal aliens living and working in the United States, Mr. Fox said a North American “bloc” of countries could be the leading and most competitive group of nations in the world “by working together and, through that, be able to keep increasing the quality and the level of life of our citizens.”

Mr. Bush’s guest-worker proposal, offered as a set of principles and not as specific legislation, would allow illegal aliens in the United States to remain if they have jobs and to apply as guest workers.

Under the proposal, the aliens could stay for an undetermined number of renewable three-year periods, after which they could seek permanent legal status.

But Mr. Bush initially began lobbying Congress to pass a new alien-work program in 2001, although that effort was sidelined after the September 11 attacks and renewed concerns over border security. At the time, Mr. Bush and Mr. Fox had agreed to consider granting permanent residency, or green cards, to as many as 3 million Mexicans living illegally in the United States.