- The Washington Times - Friday, March 3, 2006

The Department of Homeland Security and Mexico’s top security official yesterday agreed to work together to address the challenges both countries face along the U.S.-Mexico border of rising violence and smuggling operations.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Mexican Secretary of Governance Carlos Abascal signed off on an agreement to formalize what they described as existing cooperative efforts that have resulted in arrests and reduced crime on both sides of the border.

“We have found that when we work together we can accomplish great things,” Mr. Chertoff said during a press conference in Brownsville, Texas. “We have today signed a memorandum of understanding, an action plan, which will quite specifically give us the means to go forward and combat violence on both sides of the border.”

Mr. Abascal described “security, safety and immigration” as shared problems, adding that “cooperation is what is going to let us solve these issues. All of us are involved in a great fight. It is the cooperation that can help us.”

Rising crime and violence has erupted all along the 1,951-mile border, with law-enforcement authorities in this country often being targeted by alien and drug smugglers. Some U.S. authorities have said the Mexican military has signed on to protect drug smugglers — an accusation vigorously denied by Mexico.

Both men said President Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox have pledged new and increased efforts at securing the U.S.-Mexico border as part of a program known as the Security and Prosperity Partnership for North America announced last March.

Mr. Chertoff and Mr. Abascal said they were committed to an aggressive approach to border enforcement based on the principle that preserving law and order was a shared responsibility requiring mutual commitment and cooperation between law-enforcement authorities in both countries.

No criminal should be allowed to exploit the dividing line between Mexico and the United States to escape justice or to prey on others, they said, and no one, regardless of immigration status, should be subjected to criminal violence.

To achieve these goals, they said both governments are committed to coordinating and strengthening procedures between federal law-enforcement agencies on both sides of the border to protect those who live, work or cross over it.

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