Border Emergency Declared in New Mexico

CNN.com, Aug. 13

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson declared a state of emergency Friday in four counties along the Mexican border that he said have been “devastated” by crimes such as the smuggling of drugs and illegal immigrants.

The declaration said the region “has been devastated by the ravages and terror of human smuggling, drug smuggling, kidnapping, murder, destruction of property and the death of livestock. . .

“[It] is in an extreme state of disrepair and is inadequately funded or safeguarded to protect the lives and property of New Mexican citizens.”

New Mexico shares 180 miles of border with the Mexican state of Chihuahua.

“The situation is out of hand,” Richardson said Friday night on CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” noting that one 54-mile stretch is particularly bad.

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Richardson’s declaration makes $750,000 in state emergency funds available to Dona Ana, Luna, Grant and Hidalgo counties.

Richardson pledged an additional $1 million in assistance for the area, his office said in a news release.

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He called on Mexico to “bulldoze the abandoned town of Las Chepas, which is directly over the border from Columbus.”

The statement went on to say that “Las Chepas is a notorious staging and resting area for those who smuggle drugs and immigrants into the United States.”

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John Fund, OpinionJournal, Aug. 15

The politics of immigration are changing. On Friday Bill Richardson, the nation’s only Hispanic governor, declared a “state of emergency” in four New Mexico border counties due to “a chaotic situation involving illegal alien smuggling and illegal drug shipments.” His office has pledged $1.5 million for stepped-up law enforcement and also asked Chris Simcox, the president of the volunteer border patrol group Minutemen, for a meeting. Mr. Richardson, a man who wears his ambition for national office on his sleeve, has apparently decided he has to reposition himself on border issues.

He’s not the only Democrat to do so. Sen. Hillary Clinton made headlines when she embraced high-tech measures to control the border with Mexico and fines for employers who hire illegal aliens. “Democrats clearly sense frustration on immigration among Bush’s base voters and are trying to outflank him rhetorically on the right,” says Martha Montelongo, a talk-show hostess in California.

President Bush is vulnerable on immigration. Earlier this summer House Republicans bluntly told him that his proposal to admit guest workers would be dead on arrival unless accompanied by more border enforcement. “All my constituent town meetings want to talk about is immigration and why Washington is still spending so much money,” Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas told me. Indeed, 17 of the 37 GOP House and Senate members who responded to a National Journal survey last month identified immigration as the issue “most on the minds” of their constituents. One Republican identified immigration as the issue on which “the mismatch between the federal government’s inaction and the realities at home is the greatest.”

The same survey identified why Democrats think they have some running room with their base on immigration. Only two of the 35 Democratic members of Congress who were surveyed mentioned immigration as being the top concern among their voters.

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Mrs. Clinton wants to have it both ways when it comes to immigration. Despite her noises about beefing up enforcement, she did not talk about immigration, temporary-worker programs or border enforcement when she addressed the National Council of La Raza, the largest Hispanic civil rights group in the country. “I was hoping to hear something,” a surprised Nellie Moreno of Phoenix told the Washington Post.

Instead, Mrs. Clinton pandered to the liberal crowd and received a standing ovation when she announced a new bill that would guarantee in-state college tuition rates for the children of illegal immigrants as well as amnesty to some 65,000 illegal immigrant students who graduate from U.S. high schools each year. Patti Solis Doyle, Mrs. Clinton’s chief political strategist and a Mexican-American, told Democratic friends that the speech was a smashing success.

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In New Mexico, Gov. Richardson has done much the same thing. He now blasts the federal government for not showing “the commitment or the leadership to deal with border issues.” He is demanding that officials on the Mexican side bulldoze an abandoned town on the border that serves “as a staging area for illegal drugs and illegal aliens.” But Mr. Richardson sang a different tune in late 2003, when he showed up at a rally for the “Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride” and told them, “¡Viva la raza! . . . Thank you for coming to Santa Fe. Know that New Mexico is your home. We will protect you. You have rights here.” Jaime Becerril, one of the organizers of the freedom ride, told the Santa Fe New Mexican that the participants favored a new amnesty program. He called immigration “a byproduct of colonialism and capitalism.”

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