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Mayor Flores speaks out on immigration

BY CELINA ALVARADO
Laredo Morning Times staff writer -- 10/10/03

The recent impending deportation efforts of non-Mexican illegal immigrants on Laredo soil-- a mockery of illegal immigration laws?-Mayor Betty Flores appeared live on CNN to discuss recent immigration issues facing Laredo as it relates to Homeland Security and border cities.

On Tuesday, city officials received word that the U.S. Border Protection Service would release 98 illegal immigrants into the community of Laredo throughout a period of several days-due to a lack of space and funds in the San Antonio and Dallas Border Protection deportation Budget.

An outraged Mayor Elizabeth "Betty" Flores, who received notice only a few hours prior to the release of the Central and South American illegal immigrants in the city, fought back, stating that the practice was "backwards," and "a mockery of our nation's immigration laws."

With those same words, Lou Dobbs, CNN correspondent, introduced Mayor Flores, in a live telecast Thursday.

Dressed in her vibrant red attire, a confident Mayor Flores, was interviewed live from Miami Florida, where she attended the 2003 U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM).

Flores was one of just a handful of guest speakers invited to address the USCM throughout the three-day meeting (Oct. 9-11). As an "expert" in Homeland Security, Flores, alongside members of the USCM leadership and the Mayors Business Council, discussed and refined the bipartisan policy priorities developed at the Special Policy Leadership meeting held in New York City in July. Among the issues discussed at the USCM were ways to support external partnerships with federal agencies, improving interoperability among law enforcement agencies (as well as other entities), and encouraging cooperative problem-solving efforts and Homeland Security preparation efforts.

Flores and Dobbs addressed issues related to illegal immigration and national security, however, Dobbs concentrated his concern over the U.S. Border Patrol actions, and how Federal officials admit they have no way to guarantee the immigrants will actually show up for their deportation hearings.

"Most concerning is how the Border Patrol in your city could release illegal aliens that they have apprehended and detained without telling you or law enforcement officials. How did that happen?," asked Dobbs.

"I don't know Lou It was very discerning to us, in fact I don't even blame our local Border Patrol, because they were as upset as we were," responded Flores.

She said, "The entire community was up in arms."

Flores reported the deportation efforts were increasingly difficult since the immigrants released in Laredo were not from across the border (Mexico), but from South and Central America, -people "we know nothing about."

Flores said she was concerned because there was no "Border Patrol global criminal check," to investigate the backgrounds of these individuals, and the potential harm they pose to the citizens of Laredo.

"What did happen is that the Border Patrol responded to my concerns," said Flores who told Dobbs how the border patrol actually paid for these people to make a phone call to their friends and neighbors (that are already in the United States) and got them free tickets to travel to parts within the United States.

Dobbs interrupted Flores and requested clarification on the border patrol's actions.

In a fumbled question of disbelief, Dobbs asked Flores, "then their (Border Patrol's) solution then was to send them (illegal immigrants) on to the rest of the country to meet with friends and perhaps even family?"

Flores told Dobbs she too was in disbelief and assured him that "that is not going to happen anymore."

As part of Flores' actions and those of congressman Henry Bonilla, who reportedly worked to amend the Iraq Supplemental Bill, two amendments were added, which means that there will be "no more lateral repatriation and no more letting these illegal immigrants go into the United States on their own recognizance."

Though Dobbs agreed this was certainly "positive news," he addressed the overlaying issue that the country is currently facing -- the lack of a national immigration policy.

Flores offered her take on national immigration law, and mentioned that is was important to understand the human nature behind the immigrant issue as well as the issue of Homeland Security and then work accordingly to find an equilibrium from there.

Among the statistics addressed by Dobbs Thursday was how the United States is absorbing one half of Mexico's natural population growth each year, a growing problem, as Flores put it -because the borders of Mexico are not secure and there is "no dialogue" with the Mexicans to understand what is going on at the Mexican side of the border.

"That is not the only problem, we don't have dialogue with their military," added Flores.

"I think there is no one simple solution," she said.

Mayor Bill Richardson, was also interviewed by Dobbs, live from Santa Fe New Mexico.

Richardson and Dobbs discussed Flores' comments and the need to increase trade with Mexico, as well as security transportation concerns.

"If you talk about a border agreement- the issue here to me is that there is no national immigration policy," said Dobbs.

Dobbs addressed how Mexico, "is starting to overwhelm this country," and the importance of establishing a set national immigration policy.

"Protecting our border and the safety of these immigrants is a major priority for the city of Laredo," said Flores, " as the largest inland port, the legal flow of people, trade and commerce are just as important as the efforts of our local border patrol in enforcing Homeland Security measures."