Photo: Beto O'Rourke
The Democratic candidate to represent El Paso, Texas border city in Congress, Beto O’Rourke, said that if he wins he will seek to create alliances to speed up border traffic between Mexico and the United States.
O’Rourke, who defeated eight-term incumbent Silvestre Reyes in last month’s Democratic primary, told Efe that if the waiting time at international border crossings continues to be more than three hours, the region will lose more than 100,000 jobs over the next five years.
“People coming from Mexico can’t be kept waiting more than four hours in temperatures higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit for the ‘privilege’ of spending their money with our businesses,” the former El Paso city councilman said.
He said he has begun contacting other border congressmen like Democrat Henry Cuellar of Laredo to create an alliance of lawmakers who will promote bills aimed at increasing the number of customs inspectors at the crossings in order to keep all the inspection posts open all the time.
O’Rourke said that a more efficient border can be achieved without sacrificing community welfare, and that the violence on the Mexican side does not now have, nor would ever have, any way to infiltrate El Paso.
He also described as a debacle the war on drugs undertaken by outgoing Mexican President Felipe Calderon, which has left more than 60,000 people dead, of whom 10,000 were just across the border from El Paso in Ciudad Juarez.
But he said that the U.S. strategy against drug trafficking has also been a failure because its policy of extreme inspections at border crossings has in no way diminished the amount of drugs entering the country.
As for immigration, O’Rourke said that public opinion must realize that immigrants contribute not only labor but also their traditions and rich cultural heritage.
“If they want each individual state to stop imposing its own immigration measures, the federal government ought to step in and give the houses of Congress a reform that unifies criteria and permits the legalization of whoever contributes to the economy,” he said.
O’Rourke said he intends to work with the Mexican government, which should be a priority for United States foreign policy because the two countries are neighbors and leading trade partners.
“It’s more important to look after our relations with Mexico than with Afghanistan or Iraq,” he said.
He said that he would also seek to create a support system for El Paso veterans and promote bilingual education in the region.
“We want the federal government to understand this binational, bicultural, bilingual region so rich in contributions from the immigrant community,” he said.