McALLEN, RGV – State Sen. José Rodríguez of El Paso has been named chairman of the Border Legislative Conference or Conferencia Legislativa Fronteriza.

The BLC has just concluded its 29th annual meeting in Phoenix, Arizona. At the conference, Rodríguez succeeded Imelda Guadalupe Alejandro de La Garza, a diputada from the Nuevo León state legislature as chair of the BLC.

State Sen. José Rodríguez
State Sen. José Rodríguez

“I am honored to be appointed chair of the Border Legislative Conference,” Rodríguez said. “The BLC serves as an avenue of direct communication for legislators on both sides of the border. While it may not always result directly in legislative initiatives, given the current atmosphere of confusion about what the border is and what opportunities it represents, having a group that can serve as a platform for sharing information is invaluable.”

The BLC is a bi-national program aimed at enhancing collaboration among legislators of ten U.S.-Mexico Border States. The group’s mission is to promote and convene annual binational exchanges in order to improve the role of border state legislators in addressing common concerns along the U.S.-Mexico border and to develop effective policies.

The BLC is administered by the Council of State Governments – West and its regional partner in the South, the Southern Legislative Conference. The group says it serves as a mechanism for “on-going dialogue and collaboration” among state legislators of the United States and Mexico. The goal of the project, the BLC says, “is to empower border state legislators to engage in the binational agenda and provide input and direction in the development of policy between both countries.”

Membership in the BLC is comprised of legislators from the ten states along the U.S.-Mexico border. They are California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas in the U.S., and Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas in Mexico.

“The BLC fosters the development of shared solutions along the border region through joint consideration of common problems and exchange of information,” the group states. “The BLC also seeks to establish efficient and strategic collaborative efforts with multi-level governments and non-governmental organizations to the end that border communities and state governments on both sides of the border may be strengthened and improved.”

Before becoming its chair and before the conference started, Sen. Rodríguez gave an interview to the Rio Grande Guardian about the work of the BLC. Asked what he hoped to achieve from this year’s annual conference, Rodríguez said: “I am hopeful that we can come out of this with a renewed sense of purpose for working in our respective governmental bodies, and communities, to share the story of the border. With billions of dollars in trade and millions of residents, the border is both an economic powerhouse and a rich cultural resource, where two countries that share a continent and a history meet. The meeting should be one of friendship and collaboration, and again, the BLC provides a platform to project that message.”

Texas-Mexico relations have been in the news this month due to Gov. Greg Abbott’s visit to Mexico City to meet with President Peña Nieto and members of his cabinet. Asked how Abbott’s trip relates to the BLC’s work, Rodríguez said: “Regarding the Governor’s visit, it is heartening to see the emphasis on the positive attributes of our relationship, and I think this is the right tone. One of the panel discussions at the BLC will be about a recent report from the Wilson Center on the U.S.-Mexico border economy, and the meeting in Mexico City is sure to be part of that, as well as providing some general context for the meeting.”

Rodríguez added: “Even at a meeting focused on economic development, you saw the Governor continue to insist on border security as a framework for discussion. As a state, we’re not where we need to be in committing to investing in the opportunities of the border, from the physical infrastructure to enhance trade to the social infrastructure of education and health care.

Diputada Imelda Guadalupe Alejandro de La Garza
Diputada Imelda Guadalupe Alejandro de La Garza

“I’m hopeful that next session we’ll make some headway in at least the transportation piece of it. As you may know, I was able to work with Senator Hinojosa and other border legislators to establish a border funding category as a budget rider in the last session, so there is some momentum to build on. I’ll continue to make the case that investing in the success of the border, as opposed to what we did last session in funding an unaccountable and unnecessary state border patrol, will pay off huge for the future of Texas.”

One of the newest members of the BLC is state Rep. Eddie Lucio of Harlingen. Texas House Speaker Joe Straus recently appointed Lucio to the group. While he could not attend the conference in Phoenix, Lucio said he was pleased with the appointment.

“I am incredibly grateful to Speaker Joe Straus for his nomination granting me the opportunity to assist in the development of shared solutions through joint consideration of common issues,” Lucio said. “This is an incredibly exciting time for me. The appointment allows me to actively engage with the Council of State Governments West and the Southern Legislative Conference and further extend working relationships with our brothers and sisters across our national border for the advancement of sound public policy.”