LCSN: Texas senator calls for border focus at Domenici conference

September 1, 2010. Retrieved online September 2, 2010 from Diana M. Alba, Las Cruces Sun-News

With former U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici listening behind her, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, waits to be introduced Wednesday in Corbett Center at New Mexico State University for the Domenici Public Policy Conference. Sen. Hutchison spoke to the attendees about border issues. (photo by Norm Dettlaff/Sun-News)

LAS CRUCES – Texas’ senior senator, Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison, referred to the bullets from Juárez gunfights that have strayed across the international border this summer, when framing her remarks Wednesday to a crowd at New Mexico State University.

And following close behind Hutchison was a look by former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., at a more global threat: nuclear arms.

The speakers were part of the first day lineup of the 2010 Domenici Public Policy Conference, meant to honor former U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico.

U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., smiles as he is introduced for this year's Domenici Public Policy Conference. He spoke of national security concerning nuclear weapons. (Photo by Norm Dettlaff/Sun-News)

In addition to the bullets, Hutchison highlighted the murders of 72 migrants killed en masse, the assassination recently of two Mexican mayors and the death toll of 28,000 in Mexico since that country’s president began a drug war four years ago.

Juárez, she said, is “ground zero” for that battle.

“We should be alarmed by this escalation,” she said.

The U.S. government is taking steps on this side of the border to combat the violence, including boosting Border Patrol agent numbers, technology and equipment; funding a program that intercepts weapons being smuggled into Mexico; and creating “strike forces” of agents who are able to “focus on areas with greater need” along the border.

“When you close down one area, another one pops up,” she said.

Hutchison said more and better-trained manpower is the key to tackling the problem of border security. She said she changed her stance because of the increasing violence and now supports stationing the National Guard along the international border to back up the Border Patrol.

In response to a question from the audience, Hutchison said U.S. officials have helped train Mexican law enforcement, but there’s only so much they can do to change conditions in that country, considering it’s an autonomous nation. Still, she said she believes it’s taking the steps needed to solve cartel problems.

“There was a time people thought we’d never lose the organized crime in Colombia,” she noted.

NMSU student Max Haake, 22, a sophomore studying accounting, said the speakers were “motivating.”

“I was impressed with how knowledgeable the speakers were and how well they conveyed their ideas,” he said. “They made it to where everybody understood and everybody felt that something needs to be done.”

Read the Las Cruces Sun-News article.

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