- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Mexican lawmakers told their American counterparts this weekend that Mexico has not done enough to stop the flow of illegal aliens across the U.S.-Mexico border, particularly non-Mexicans who first illegally cross Mexico’s southern border.

?For the first time, the Mexicans really acknowledge this is a two-way problem and has to be dealt with on both sides of the border, and I’ve never really heard them say that before,? Rep. Jim Kolbe, Arizona Republican, said yesterday after returning from a weekend meeting of the Mexico-United States Interparliamentary Group.

American lawmakers are increasingly concerned about the flow of OTMs, or ?other than Mexicans? in Border Patrol terminology, being captured by the U.S. Border Patrol after they have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. Officials say many of those OTMs have first illegally crossed Mexico’s 750-mile southern border with Guatemala and Belize.

?What I heard was a concession or an admission they are not yet able to [control that border], which is hardly surprising because it’s just a fact of life,? said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, who along with Mr. Kolbe led the U.S. delegation of three senators and 10 House members that met in Rhode Island this weekend with 17 members of Mexico’s Congress.

Mr. Kolbe has been attending the group’s meetings for two decades, and said this year’s was more positive and constructive than most.

?Early on, they were very confrontational and centered around drugs and drug smuggling — today it’s immigration reform, and it’s a much more positive mode,? he said.

A spokesman for Carlos de Icaza, the Mexican ambassador to the U.S. who attended the meeting in Rhode Island, said the ambassador had no comment on the matter.

Both Mr. Kolbe and Mr. Cornyn said the Mexican officials think that they must do more on their side of the border to pave the path for a guest-worker program or a legalization of those illegal aliens now here.

“What our Mexican friends are understanding is they cannot get what they want unless we get increased security,” Mr. Cornyn said. “You simply can’t decouple or separate those issues; they’ve got to be dealt with together. I think they, as politicians, are practical people — they understand what’s feasible and what’s not.”

Mexicans made up about 70 percent of the illegal-alien population in the United States in 2000, according to government figures.

Mr. Kolbe said the Mexican government must take “confidence-building” steps to prove it is serious about reducing illegal immigration from its side of the border, including putting more resources into the nation’s southern border and trying to discourage illegal crossings on its northern border.

“They think they’re doing a lot, but they acknowledge there’s possibly more they could do,” he said, though the American lawmakers said the Mexico-Guatemala border presents different challenges, such as the jungles that distinguish the region, rather than the open desert that marks much of the U.S.-Mexico border.

A statement issued in Spanish by the Mexican Senate delegation praised recent immigration legislation introduced in the U.S. Congress, and said there are things Mexico must do on the subject of border security, though the statement did not specify what.

The American and Mexican lawmakers also discussed crime along the border, in the wake of an escalating and bloody drug war and a shootout this weekend between local and federal Mexican police in Nuevo Laredo, a city across the Rio Grande from Laredo, Texas.

Yesterday, Mexican troops and federal police took control of the city, surrounding the town hall in the morning and taking dozens of local police away in trucks. Special forces troops from an airborne unit stood guard on street corners.

Mr. Cornyn said the issue of crime came up during the group’s meetings this weekend, and said the United States is ready to help, but added that it’s the responsibility of sovereign nations to control internal affairs.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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