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24 April 2003

Ridge, Mexican Governance Secretary Assess Border Issues Progress

(Joint statement released April 23) (1750)

Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge and his Mexican counterpart,
Secretary of Governance Santiago Creel, issued a joint statement April
23 on progress achieved under the U.S.-Mexico Border Partnership
accord.


According to the joint statement, the accord -- endorsed by President
Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox on March 22, 2002 -- "outlined
specific actions that would be taken to create a smart border for the
21st century, one that embraces technology and enhanced bilateral
cooperation to ensure the secure flow of people and goods and the
development of a secure and sufficient infrastructure necessary to
facilitate the growing trade between Mexico and the United States, to
promote legitimate travel across the border, and to protect against
crime and terrorism."

Ridge and Creel said that their governments are working to safeguard
and improve the two countries' border infrastructure. They noted that
Mexico and the United States have agreed to harmonize their respective
planning systems and to facilitate communication between
border-control agencies at ports of entry. Moreover, "both governments
are also examining modeling techniques and procedures to ensure that
our border infrastructure is able to meet the demands placed on it by
border communities and commerce," they added.

Pointing to "significant progress in strengthening border-security
measures in both our countries," the two men said that Mexico and the
United States are also "working to ensure safe, orderly and secure
travel for legitimate border-crossers." And to address migrant-safety
issues, they said, both countries plan to place "additional personnel
and life-saving equipment along the [U.S.-Mexico] border," with
special attention to the high-risk Arizona-Sonora corridor. "Training
of immigration officials and law enforcement authorities from both
countries in life-saving techniques is underway," the secretaries
said. As part of their governments' focus on "protecting lives and
preventing death," Ridge and Creel announced that "the authorities of
both countries plan to continue to work jointly to arrest and
prosecute smugglers who place migrants at risk."

The U.S. and Mexican governments have begun introducing measures
"designed to guarantee the secure and efficient flow of trade" between
the two nations, the men said. They cited several areas of
cooperation, such as: harmonizing and extending hours of service at
the ports of entry located at the U.S.-Mexico border; working to
establish the Advanced Passenger Information System in Mexico "that
will collect and share data pertaining to air passengers arriving into
and departing from Mexico and the United States"; testing and
implementing cutting-edge technology; conducting joint investigations
concerning fraudulent trade; developing systems to monitor in-transit
shipments; and seizing illegal cash transported by air passengers.

Although "both sides recognize that many challenges lie ahead," Mexico
and the United States "will continue our joint work to increase
security, minimize delays at points of entry and build a border that
keeps pace with our growing partnership," Creel and Ridge said.

Following is the text of their joint statement, with further details:

(begin text)

U.S. Department of Homeland Security
April 23, 2003

U.S.-Mexico Border Partnership

Joint Statement on Progress Achieved

When President George W. Bush and President Vicente Fox met in
Monterrey, Mexico, on March 22, 2002, they endorsed a Border
Partnership accord that was signed by Santiago Creel, Secretary of
Governance, and Colin Powell, Secretary of State. This accord was
accompanied by a 22-point plan that outlined specific actions that
would be taken to create a smart border for the 21st century, one that
embraces technology and enhanced bilateral cooperation to ensure the
secure flow of people and goods and the development of a secure and
sufficient infrastructure necessary to facilitate the growing trade
between Mexico and the United States, to promote legitimate travel
across the border, and to protect against crime and terrorism.

Respecting the sovereignty of each party and in light of the principle
of mutual responsibility, various agencies and departments in our two
countries have worked hard -- in conjunction with state and local
governments and private-sector stakeholders -- to achieve the aims of
this plan. We are pleased with the tremendous progress achieved over
the past year. Yet, we are just at the initial steps; there is more to
be done. We must work to reduce bottlenecks and crossing delays for
the legitimate flow of people and goods; we must work to strengthen
our countries' national security; we must continue to work together to
ensure prosperity for our countries.

Secure Infrastructure 

In order to coordinate the infrastructure development plans, while
improving the use of existing systems, Mexico and the United States
have agreed to harmonize our planning systems and to better
communicate between border-control agencies at ports of entry. Both
governments are also examining modeling techniques and procedures to
ensure that our border infrastructure is able to meet the demands
placed on it by border communities and commerce.

The Border Partnership also calls upon Mexico and the United States to
examine trans-border infrastructure and communication and
transportation networks and their associated vulnerabilities in order
to identify critical trans-border infrastructure protection
deficiencies, and to take measures to remedy them. To seek to
accomplish this, we have formed a bilateral steering committee and
developed an infrastructure protection framework. We have also
established sector-focused working groups in the areas of energy,
telecommunications, transportation, dams, public health, and
agriculture. These groups are tasked with identifying critical
infrastructures with trans-border implications; developing protection
priorities; and taking compatible steps to eliminate or mitigate
vulnerabilities each country has in its own territory.

Secure Flow of People

Since signing the Border Partnership, Mexico and the United States
have made significant progress in strengthening border-security
measures in both our countries. Through cooperative efforts and based
on sound risk-management principles, we are working to ensure safe,
orderly and secure travel for legitimate border-crossers. These
bilateral actions will be further enhanced by the recent merging of
the U.S. agencies responsible for the border into the new Department
of Homeland Security, the formation of which provides the Mexican
government with one point of contact for border-security matters.

To encourage and promote low-risk travel, both pedestrian and
vehicular, through congested ports of entry, the United States plans
to expand, by using state-of-the-art technology, the Secure Electronic
Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI). In conjunction with
this expansion, the United States extended in February the enrollment
period from one year to two years. The United States also plans to
reduce the waiting period for issuance of the SENTRI card to 2 months
or less by June. Further, plans are underway to establish the first
dedicated pedestrian lane at the San Ysidro port of entry.

The United States and Mexico plan to accelerate their border-safety
collaboration to safeguard migrants by placing additional personnel
and life-saving equipment along the border, placing special attention
to the "high-risk" Arizona-Sonora corridor. Training of immigration
officials and law enforcement authorities from both countries in
life-saving techniques is underway. Equipment and additional resources
necessary to support these efforts are in place as both governments
focus together on protecting lives and preventing deaths. The
authorities of both countries plan to continue to work jointly to
arrest and prosecute smugglers who place migrants at risk.

Secure Flow of Goods

Based on a longstanding relationship of cooperation and mutual
assistance, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the General
Customs Administration of Mexico (GCAM) have begun the implementation
of those action items designed to guarantee the secure and efficient
flow of trade between our nations.

For purposes of developing and implementing initiatives identified in
the U.S./Mexico Border Partnership Plan, CBP and GCAM have created
three special working groups: the Border Working Group, the
Enforcement Working Group, and the Technology & Customs Procedures
Working Group. These groups have been meeting quarterly and are in
constant communication. A Coordinating Committee leads and monitors
all activities.

These groups have been working on a broad range of initiatives,
namely:

(1) harmonizing and extending the hours of service, in coordination
with our trade communities, at the ports of entry located at our
common border;

(2) working to implement the Advanced Passenger Information System in
Mexico that will collect and share data pertaining to air passengers
arriving into and departing from Mexico and the United States;

(3) deploying gamma ray machines at our railroad crossings; 

(4) expanding programs and partnerships with the private sector, such
as the Business Anti-Smuggling Coalition (BASC), the Customs-Trade
Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) and Mexico's Compliant
Importer/Exporter Program (110 of the 300 largest traders that account
for 66 percent of our bilateral trade have already been certified by
this program);

(5) exchanging core data on every transaction occurring through our
common border in an electronic environment;

(6) testing and implementing cutting-edge technology, such as
electronic seals;

(7) conducting joint investigations concerning fraudulent trade, which
have led to significant seizures of illegally transshipped or
undervalued goods;

(8) developing systems to monitor in-transit shipments through our
territories; and,

(9) seizing illegal cash transported by air passengers.

CBP and GCAM are also currently working to develop high-tech dedicated
lanes, which will be made available only to those large companies
willing to go the extra mile in securing their shipments. These
dedicated lanes will expedite and facilitate the border-crossing
process, thus reducing the cost of doing business. We intend to open
the first dedicated lane in El Paso/Juárez during 2003. The project
will be evaluated to ensure that it is both secure and efficient. Once
we reach an acceptable level of confidence, we plan to replicate
dedicated lanes throughout the U.S.-Mexico border.

Next Steps 

Our two governments are committed to building an efficient border that
simultaneously facilitates legitimate travel, goods, and services on
which our economies depend while assuring the security of our two
nations. Both sides recognize that many challenges lie ahead.
Nonetheless, we are confident that the Border Partnership accord is
the vehicle to attain the spirit of cooperation of our two presidents.
We will continue our joint work to increase security, minimize delays
at ports of entry and build a border that keeps pace with our growing
partnership.

Tom Ridge                               Santiago Creel Miranda
Secretary of Homeland Security          Secretary of Governance
United States                           Mexico

Otay Mesa, California
April 23, 2003

(end text)

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)