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MCALLEN, RGV – The crisis is not at the border, but in the Central American countries; most of the drugs go through international bridges, and 67 percent of the people who are illegally in the United States entered with a legal permit such as visa.

These were some of the key points made by U.S Reps. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo,  and Vicente Gonzalez D- McAllen, at a news conference about border security. The event came a day before President Donald Trump insisted, during his State of the Union address, that a border wall needs to be built to address a “crisis” at the border.

“We do not have a crisis on the border, we have a crisis in three Central American countries – El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, where people are emigrating from,” Congressman Gonzalez said. “I think we need to invest in those countries that have been ignored for decades. Invest in security and look for economic opportunity so that people have an incentive to stay in their country.”

Right now, Gonzalez said, official statistics show that know Mexicans are returning to their country at a faster rate than they coming to the US. He said this is because there is more economic opportunity in Mexico. “I think we should create that same environment in those Central American countries.”

Gonzalez said that of the $750 million Congress has budgeted to help these three Central American countries, only $590 million has been allocated.  

Congressman Cuellar said that in 2014, $80 million was authorized for Mexico to secure its border with Guatemala. “They (Mexico) were stopping more than 225,000 people annually,” Cuellar said.  He said Congress hopes to give Mexico $100 million to secure their southern border.

Gonzalez said he had the opportunity to speak with members of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s cabinet about Mexico’s stance on Central American migration.

“They expressed a lot of interest in trying to help stop immigration on the southern border and maybe have asylum hearings like we have here,” Gonzalez said. 

Cuellar said ensuring a skilled workforce in Mexico is important securing the border region.

“We want to work together to have security on the border but without a wall. Put in more technology and more agents,” Cuellar said. 

“We also need the men and women in blue who are the people on the bridges. We want to hire 1,000 CBP officers and Ag specialists for our bridges.”

Both Cuellar and Gonzalez said many of their colleagues in Washington, D.C., are blissfully unaware that Border Patrol is not the only federal agency working at the border. They pointed out that there are a number of other federal agencies that assist with homeland security at international crossings and at other strategic points.

The two members of Congress clarified that in addition to the “men and women in green” of the Border Patrol, there are also “men and women in blue” working for Customs & Border Protection, and Air Marines that operate in the airplanes, helicopters or boats.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Congressmen Vicente Gonzalez and Henry Cuellar. They held a gathering for news media outlets at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce on Monday, Feb. 4, 2019 Photo by Blanca Gomez/Rio Grande Guardian.

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