N.M., Mexico Agree to Raze Lawless Town

Alicia A. Caldwell, AP, Aug. 27

The dusty Mexican community of Las Chepas is home to only about 35 full-time residents, but U.S. border patrol agents say a caravan of old school buses and vans hauls people into the town every day. Las Chepas, authorities say, is a staging ground for would-be immigrants and drug and human smugglers.

On Friday, the governors of New Mexico and its southern neighbor, the Mexican state of Chihuahua, agreed to bulldoze or board up the lawless town’s abandoned buildings to stem the illegal activity there.

Gov. Bill Richardson and Chihuahua Gov. Jose Reyes Baeza also said they hoped to establish a police presence in Las Chepas.

Reyes Baeza said he would instruct law officers on his side of the border to fine unlicensed bus operators who ferry would-be immigrants 15 miles on a dusty washboard road along the border to Las Chepas.

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For Leopaldo Castillo Rodriguez, 66, Las Chepas is more than a trouble spot a stone’s throw from the border. He and his wife have lived there for 22 years and don’t ever plan to leave.

As he surveyed his front yard this week, complete with a lush and blooming rose bush, he said he didn’t understand why Richardson would want to demolish the town.

“It would be the same, if it wasn’t here,” Castillo said of the situation.

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