Inter Press Service

When it was created, the principle objective of the task force was to introduce a set of policy recommendations for both governments on how to strengthen border security and cooperation, focusing on public safety, migration, facilitation of legal transit and commerce, economic development and border institutions.

The COMEXI report, initially published in 2009, was widely welcomed by government officials in both countries.

“The task force outline posed a specific set of approaches in looking at border management,” Christopher Wilson, an associate at the Mexico Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Center, a think tank here, told IPS.

“Many of them fell under the category of shared responsibility, looking at trans-national challenges, taking responsibility for them and then finding ways to work together for a common solution.”

Wilson says the new set-up replaced an older model of bilateral relationship in which one party would typically blame the other for challenges in dealing with the border.

“Look at the example of drugs and weapons smuggling,” Wilson says. “There are drug demand issues on the U.S. side, but there are weapons demand issues on the Mexican side, where there are also rule-of-law issues and violence. The task force sought ways to share responsibility and work together to confront these interconnected problems.”

Since that time, many of the recommendations have been implemented. For instance, the U.S. and Mexican federal governments have made large investments in staffing, infrastructure and technology and have refocused cooperation on security efforts.

Task force members say that several issues remain outstanding, however, including better law enforcement against illegal migration and weapons smuggling, as well as environmental issues like illicit dumpsites, pollution and the reintroduction of native trees.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the task force emphasised the current opportune timing for implementation of these remaining responsibilities, given new administrations in both capitals.

Dealing responsibly with the migration issue is particularly pressing, the task force says, noting that of the hundreds of thousands of people who cross the border illegally each year, the vast majority are economic migrants from Mexico seeking work.

They propose that Mexico and the United States establish a joint commission of economists, demographers, business and labour leaders to analyse the labour market effects of these long-term demographic trends and economic integration.

Wilson says this process is about “changing the concept of the 21st century border”, a concept he notes was adopted by Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Barack Obama in 2010 and was largely envisioned by the task force report.

“The idea is that you can have security gains without sacrificing the efficiency of moving people and commerce and still have joint economic prosperity,” Wilson says.

“There is a new Mexico today, one that is in many ways different from the Mexico of 20 years ago. It’s a richer country, largely middle class, with fewer children per family – and thus fewer young people entering the labour force.”