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US-Mexico Border Mayors to Meet,Debate 07/27 06:08

   SAN DIEGO (AP) -- The first meeting of the U.S.-Mexico Border Mayors 
Association since Donald Trump became president of the United States begins 
Thursday as the stakes of debate in Washington could hardly be higher for the 
region of 12 million people stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of 
Mexico.

   Trump is moving ahead with plans to build a "big, beautiful wall" separating 
the two countries and add 5,000 Border Patrol agents, despite uncertainty about 
how much Congress will agree to pay. The U.S., Mexico and Canada are preparing 
to overhaul the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, one of Trump's 
favorite punching bags.

   As with other border gatherings of mayors and governors, one challenge was 
getting enough elected officials to attend. This year's hosts, Mayor Kevin 
Faulconer of San Diego and Juan Manuel Gastelum of Tijuana, Mexico, ensure that 
two of the region's largest cities are represented. Ciudad Juarez, across the 
border from El Paso, Texas, will be there, as will McAllen, Texas.

   El Paso Mayor Dee Margo won't attend because he will be in the state capital 
for meetings with the governor and legislators, said spokeswoman Olivia Zepeda. 
Pete Saenz, mayor of Laredo, Texas, needed to tend to city affairs after two 
weeks of business travel, said spokeswoman Blasita Lopez. Absent mayors from 
Mexico include the leaders of Mexicali, Nogales and Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros.

   Border mayors generally advocate for robust trade between the two countries 
and expanded international crossings to ease the flow of goods and people. They 
have given a cold shoulder to Trump's wall.

   Panels at the two-day gathering --- the group's fifth since 2011 --- will 
cover Nafta, infrastructure, the state of U.S.-Mexico relations, public health 
and urban development. The mayors will work on a joint resolution on bilateral 
trade.

   "Border mayors and governors have struggled over the years to create and 
sustain forums in which they can get to know each other and work together on a 
common agenda," said Christopher Wilson, deputy director of the Wilson Center's 
Mexico Institute in Washington.

   The group's rotating venues may prove more challenging for small-city hosts 
who have more limited budgets and resources.

   "Right now the border mayors association is a great idea with enough energy 
to get a meeting off the ground but without a structure," Wilson said. "They 
need some glue to the organization."

   The Border Governors Conference, which dates back to the 1980s, has been 
moribund for several years. In 2010, then-Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer canceled a 
Phoenix event after Mexico's border governors boycotted because she signed a 
tough law against illegal immigration. The New Mexico governor at the time, 
Bill Richardson, convened a meeting in Santa Fe, but he was the only one of 
four U.S. border governors to show. New Mexico was also the only U.S. presence 
the following year.


(KA)

 
 
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