Border czar lauds efforts with Mexico
By Gary Martin
San Antonio Express-News
WASHINGTON — Border czar Alan Bersin said Tuesday that the use of the National Guard for border security in Southwestern states is still under consideration but said current U.S. and Mexican efforts to stem drug gang violence are working.
Bersin told reporters that U.S. law enforcement is cooperating with Mexican President Felipe Calderón's crackdown on the narcotics cartels.
And southbound traffic checks instituted by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano have resulted in thousands of seized weapons and millions of dollars in bulk cash headed for Mexican criminal enterprises.
"This is a long-term engagement, a recognition by presidents of both countries of the national security implications to Mexico and the United States in dealing with drug trafficking organizations," he said.
Bersin, whose "border czar" media nickname is shorthand for the much longer official title of DHS assistant secretary for international affairs and special representative for border affairs, called the new U.S.-Mexico relationship in the battle against the drug cartels a "historic change."
But Texas Gov. Rick Perry and other border state governors have called on the federal government to provide funding for National Guard deployments as a hedge against spillover violence from northern Mexican cities into U.S. communities.
Perry, up for re-election in 2010, wants a call-up of 1,000 National Guard troops as a "proactive" response to the federal government's failure to stop smuggling of illegal drugs and undocumented immigrants into the United States through Texas.
"We are still awaiting official word from Washington on the governor's request," said Katherine Cesinger, a spokeswoman for the governor in Austin.
She said Texas is "hopeful we'll get the resources we need to secure our border."
Bersin said the request is still being weighed by Napolitano and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Bersin said there is an ongoing assessment of the threat and any recommendation by Napolitano and Gates will be forwarded to President Barack Obama.
While there is violence along the border, there has not been a spillover of the cartel-against-cartel struggles that have terrorized northern Mexican cities and accounted for more than 10,000 deaths, Bersin said.
The United States has taken responsibility for its role in the escalating violence, Bersin said, by admitting that demand for illegal substances has helped create the Mexican cartels that control contraband shipments north.
And with the acceptance of responsibility, Bersin said the Obama administration has pledged its help to crack down on guns and cash going south that help fuel the violence that has gripped Mexico.
"That's never happened before," Bersin said of the U.S. response.
Alan Bersin was appointed border czar in mid-April to oversee border violence.