News Column

Security Dominates Border Confab

May 2005, HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine

Patricia Guadalupe

Congressman Henry Bonilla
Congressman Henry Bonilla

BORDER ISSUES: The ninth annual U.S.-Mexico Border Issues Conference was recently held in Washington, D.C., spotlighting immigration and national security – two issues that have dominated the gathering since the 2001 terrorist attacks. The conference – coordinated by the U.S.-Mexico Chamber of Commerce, Congressmen Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) and Jim Kolbe (R-AZ), and the Congressional Border Caucus – drew some 200 policy makers, business leaders, and experts from the United States and Mexico in such fields as international trade and the environment. At the conference, Mr. Reyes, a former Border Patrol chief, announced he was introducing two pieces of legislation related to U.S.-Mexico issues.

The Border Economic Recovery Act for Health and the Environment would earmark funds for environmental infrastructure projects and for long-range planning on water supply along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border. The Secure Borders act would provide funding for an infrastructure investment fund and screen all cargo trucks crossing the border.

GOP HISPANICS: Florida Republican Mario Díaz-Balart and Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño have been named to the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) for the 2005-06 election cycle. Mr. Díaz-Balart and Mr. Fortuño are charged with helping develop and implement the party's strategy to build on the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. The NRCC is a fund-raising arm of GOPers in Congress. Mr. Fortuño is Puerto Rico's non-voting representative in Congress and the first Republican to represent the island since it became a U.S. commonwealth in 1951.

ELECTED LOBBYISTS: Members of Hispanic Elected Local Officials (HELO), an organization that is part of the National League of Cities, came to Washington to lobby Congress in opposition to cuts in funding for the Community Development Block Grant program. The program, which helps fund public infrastructure and economic development in distressed areas, is slated to be cut by almost $1 billion under President George W. Bush's fiscal 2006 budget plan. The president also has proposed moving the block grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to the Department of Commerce, a move HELO opposes because the program would become part of many initiatives under a single program.

STATE MENTORING: Maryland Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr. has introduced a minority business program, the Mentor-Protége Program, which partners small businesses with "mentors" from large companies. Mr. Ehrlich called the program economic empowerment "in real terms," adding that "given the fact that 95 percent of Maryland's businesses are small businesses, their growth and survival is essential to our state's economy. One of the most effective ways small businesses can gain the competitive edge they need to succeed in today's business environment is by partnering with larger businesses." A majority of the state's minority-owned businesses operate in the greater Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. o


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