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Ridge Proposes 'Smart Border Arrangement' - 2002-03-06

U.S. Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said increased sharing of information and intelligence will help his country and Mexico build what he is calling a "smart border arrangement." Mr. Ridge has just concluded two days of discussions in Mexico on how to plug loopholes on the nations' 2,000-mile border.

The bilateral meetings have been held to facilitate the flow of people and goods, while cracking down on smuggling and drug traffic and discouraging terrorist infiltration.

Governor Ridge said the effort must be extensive. He said, "We would envisage building on the collaboration that has developed over the past several years with new technology — including biometrics; sharing of information between various agencies; and, basically, a different approach to not only our land borders, but to the borders of our airports and the borders defined by our sea ports, as well."

Mr. Ridge stressed the new effort is separate from developments on cross-border migration strategy which Secretary of State Colin Powell and Attorney General John Ashcroft are developing with their Mexican counterparts. "I think it is very important to underscore that — while there has been a greater public awareness of the bilateral discussions about the border — the private discussions about migration have not lost their intensity," he said.

Mr. Ridge said the Bush Administration is more than satisfied the assistance which is being given by President Vicente Fox. "We have to build on relationship, on reliable information that we both share and that we act upon," he continued. "So, we hope and we believe we will receive — because the record over the past year and a half or two years points us to only one conclusion — that the extraordinary cooperation that we've had with President Fox's administration will only get better."

The countries have signed a declaration aimed at beefing up border security, while taking into account ever-greater flows of people and commerce.