U.S.-Mexico Border Security Task Force

Background and Approach

The Bi-national Task Force on the United States-Mexico Border was created as a cooperative effort of the Pacific Council and the Mexican Council on Foreign Relations (COMEXI), a prestigious Mexico-based civil and non-profit association, to tackle pressing cross-border issues affecting the U.S. and Mexico. The principal objective of the Task Force was to set forth a set of policy recommendations for both the U.S. and Mexican governments on how to strengthen border security and cooperation on a host of issues to the benefit of both nations. The Task Force aimed to provide analytically informed prescriptions for the U.S.-Mexico border region in five policy areas: public safety, migration, facilitation of legal transit and commerce, economic development, and border institutions. Rather than focusing on government-to-government relations at the federal level, the Task Force moved forward with the intent to direct its efforts primarily toward what is happening in the border area itself – that is, toward the problems confronting communities that dot and straddle the frontier.

To this end, 30 distinguished business executives, civic leaders, policy experts, and former government officials and opinion shapers from Mexico and the United States were brought together to form the Task Force, each of whom shared detailed knowledge and experience of the border region and are diverse in their backgrounds and perspectives. Also joining the Task Force at each of its three meetings were local, state, and federal policymakers to assist in the project’s efforts. The primary activities of the Task Force were focused around three meetings in Tijuana, Baja California and San Diego in February 2009; Monterrey, Nuevo Leon in April 2009; and Tempe, Arizona in June 2009. Each of the meetings addressed a different topic related to enhancing border security and collaborative efforts between the U.S. and Mexican governments, and served as the primary forum from which the Task Force report’s final recommendations were derived.


The Task Force's first meeting, which focused on the topics of border security and border facilitation, took place in Tijuana and San Diego on February 12-14, 2009. Drugs and weapons trafficking were the major focal points of discussions, as both represent severe threats to the border’s security. The meeting featured a tour of the U.S. side of the border and a discussion with U.S. and Mexican border law enforcement officials on the current status of border security and potential improvement efforts that could assist border agents on both sides. Conversations were also held with Arturo Sarukhan, Mexico's ambassador to the United States and former foreign policy advisor to President Felipe Calderon; Jose Guadalupe Osuna Millan, governor of Baja California; and Jerry Sanders, mayor of San Diego.

The Task Force's second meeting, which focused on the management of shared resources, border health and environmental issues, regional energy policy, economic development, and migration, took place in Monterrey, Mexico on April 23-25, 2009. The meeting included conversations with Nuevo Leon Governor José Natividad González, the current chair of the Border Governors Conference, and Alan D. Bersin, the then newly-appointed Assistant Secretary for International Affairs and Special Representative for Border Affairs at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The Task Force's third and final meeting, which focused on institutions for managing the border and a review of policy recommendations from the previous meetings, took place in Tempe, Arizona on June 18-20, 2009. It included conversations with Alan D. Bersin, Assistant Secretary for International Affairs and Special Representative for Border Affairs at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Patricio Martinez, former Governor of Chihuahua; Alejandro Estivill, Director General for North America in the Mexican Foreign Ministry; Roberta S. Jacobson, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Canada, Mexico and NAFTA Issues; Jim Kolbe, former member of the U.S. Congress and an expert on immigration issues; Roberto F. Salmon, Mexican Commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission; and Margie A. Emmermann, Policy Advisor for Mexico to the Governor of Arizona and Executive Director of the Arizona-Mexico Commission.

Products and Outreach

Prior to the official U.S. public release of the report, Task Force Co-Chairs Hon. Robert C. Bonner and Ambassador Andres Rozental presented a report summary to a group of Mexican government and congressional officials at the Mexico release event on October 13, 2009, followed by a public media event featuring over 100 participants and 5 television stations that provided extensive coverage. In attendance at the Mexico release were many notable Mexican government officials and leaders, including Patricia Espinosa, Foreign Minister; Julian Ventura, Deputy Foreign Minister for North American Affairs; Senator Rosario Green, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Congressman Hector Murguía, Secretary of the Border and Immigration Subcommittee of the House of Representatives; Cecilia Romero, Immigration Commissioner; Juan José Bravo, Head of Mexico's Customs Authority; Jorge Tello, Secretary of the National Security System of Mexico; Franco Zevada, International Affairs Coordinator with the Attorney General and Rafael Fernández de Castro, Foreign Affairs Coordinator in the Presidency of Mexico. Mexican Task Force Members who attended the lunch: Gustavo Mohar, Carlos de la Parra, Jorge Montaño, Luis de la Calle, Carlos Heredia and Fernando Solana (President of the Mexican Council on Foreign Relations).

Subsequent interviews were also conducted with Mr. Bonner and Ambassador Rozental by CNN, Televisa and Univision, as well as radio interviews with individual Task Force members. Ambassador Rozental was then invited to give a private report summary at a breakfast at the American Chamber of Commerce with then newly appointed Mexican Ambassador to the U.S., Hon. Carlos Pascual. The feedback from each event was resoundingly positive, offering great praise for the work of the Task Force and the final policy report. As a result, Mr. Bonner and Ambassador Rozental were asked to participate in a follow-up meeting which will be coordinated by President Calderon's office to delve deeper into the recommendations and try to present some ways in which these can be implemented, both in the short and medium term.

The final report, entitled, “Managing the United States-Mexico Border: Cooperative Solutions to Common Challenges” was released on November 13, 2009, at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute in Washington D.C. The report's public release was chaired by Carlos M. Gutierrez, former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce. In attendance were many notable business executives, civic leaders, and government officials from the U.S. and Mexico, as well as policymakers and officials from the key border states. The Collegio del Norte’s Indicative Plan for the Border Governors Conference was also featured, as well as a panel discussion of the Acting Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection Jayson Ahern and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, moderated by Mr. Gutierrez. Mexican ambassador to the U.S. Arturo Sarukhan made a keynote speech largely endorsing the recommendations of the task force and praising the work of the task force. The public presentation was followed by a private lunch at the Woodrow Wilson Center. Alan Bersin, the former co-chair of our task force and now Assistant Secretary at DHS for International Affairs and CBP Commissioner nominee, spoke at the luncheon, and there was an excellent discussion of the task force recommendations, and particularly how to get them implemented.

The event garnered widespread media coverage and interest from numerous high-profile policymakers regarding the Task Force’s work and recommendations. The Washington Times and The Washington Post both released news reports on the Task Force report following the release event, and Task Force Co-Chairs Mr. Bonner and Ambassador Rozental recently gave a report briefing in a roundtable discussion with The Los Angeles Times on December 9, followed by a panel discussion on the report at San Diego University on December 10. Additionally, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano was given a personal briefing of the Task Force report following the release event, as well as numerous other U.S. congressional representatives. Secretary Napolitano has also urged the Task Force to continue its work, by reconvening in a year or so to provide feedback on the progress toward implementation.

The report sets a track for generating new and innovative dynamics for border interactions in 6 key areas of mutual concern: Security, Economic Development, Migration, Water Management, the Environment and Facilitation. Recommendations were derived from the three Task Force meetings: the first meeting on border security and facilitation, the second meeting on resources, environmental issues, energy policy, migration and economic development, and the third meeting on border managing institutions. Notable are recommendations on Security, where the report recommends that the US & Mexico should expand cooperative law enforcement efforts along the border, such as the OASISS Program (through which information collected by U.S. officials is used by Mexican authorities for prosecutorial efforts). Other significant recommendations include those on Migration, which assert that both countries need to address the deleterious effects on individuals, families and communities by jointly developing a plan for managing future flows (both temporary and permanent), taking into account the demographic and labor market realities of both countries.

With the enthusiastic reception of the report, the Task Force is currently exploring continuing its work under the encouragement of policymakers and leaders in the U.S. and Mexico. Both Secretary Patricia Espinosa and Secretary Napolitano have indicated a desire to see that there is consideration and follow-up regarding the recommendations of the Task Force, which appear to have some traction in both governments.

UPDATE (January 21, 2010): At the end of January, Task Force Co-Chair Ambassador Rozental and Task Force member Carlos Heredia began the follow-up process in Mexico with a meeting convened by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Julian Ventura. Participants considered the viability of various proposals contained in the report, and discussed how to implement Task Force recommendations. The meeting was well-attended by senior officials from government ministries and agencies that have a role in border affairs, as well as individuals from the Presidency, Colegio de la Frontera Norte, the Border Environmental Cooperation Council and other border institutions. Plans were made for a second meeting and a series of further events during the course of 2010.

To view the Task Force roster, click here.
To view the Executive Summary of the Final Report, click here.
To view the Final Report, click here.
To view the Report Card, click here.

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