WASHINGTON – U.S. and Mexican officials said Monday that intelligence sharing between the two countries is leading to a more secure and “more modern and efficient border.”
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Mexican Interior Secretary Alejandro Poire, speaking together at a luncheon in Washington, said that newfound collaboration between law-enforcement agencies paid off recently in the arrest of a Mexican drug cartel leader, among other victories.
“We’re sharing more info with each other than ever before,” Napolitano said at the Wilson Center luncheon. “We’ve increased the number of intelligence analysts working on the border and established a border enforcement security task force in Mexico City.”
Poire pointed to recent arrests of drug cartel leaders in Mexico that have been helped by the newfound cooperation between the two countries. While he said a special unit of Mexico’s navy led the operation that resulted in the arrests, Poire said it entailed “collaboration from other federal agencies, the federal police and the army and, in particular, collaboration and intelligence sharing with U.S. agencies.”
“Thanks to collaboration with U.S. agencies, we can now speak about places like Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez as being places which have actually diminished … crime rates,” Poire said.
The cooperation has led to improvements north of the border, too, said Napolitano, noting that it plays a role in the fight against human smuggling along with “the manpower, the technology, the infrastructure that the U.S. has added to the border.”
Napolitano said illegal border crossings are at the lowest point since the 1970s. The number of people caught by U.S. Border Patrol trying to cross the Southwest border illegally has fallen every year since 2005, to 327,577 in fiscal 2011, according a report this month from the Department of Homeland Security.
Both Poire and Napolitano said there are benefits beyond law enforcement as well. They pointed to programs like the Global Entry program operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which is designed to expedite security screenings for preapproved travelers.
Those sorts of initiatives not only help harried travelers, but can lead to improved trade between the two countries, they said.
Poire said the trend toward a closer relationship has been developing over the past decade, and that it should continue.
“Over the last 15 or 20 years we have been gradually not only deepening some of the areas of collaboration – trade, investment – but also coming to terms with the fact that our security challenges are shared security challenges,” he said.
Napolitano said the two countries’ previous reluctance to address transborder issues has begun to thaw, and it’s beginning to pay off for both nations.
“I think there had developed a tradition of law enforcement on both sides not trusting law enforcement on the other side,” she said. “We have had to work to break down those walls and to really tell law enforcement in the field that we value cooperation and information sharing and we are looking for ways to do it.”