News Column

El Paso Debate: O'Rourke, Carrasco Discuss Border, Drugs

Oct. 4, 2012

Aileen B. Flores

El Paso candidates, O'Rourke and Carrasco, debated in Spanish on Thursday.
El Paso candidates, O'Rourke and Carrasco, debated in Spanish on Thursday.

It was a debate with a different flavor.

Unlike President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney's debate on Wednesday, candidates for the 16th Congressional District faced off Thursday night in Spanish -- their first and only one in Spanish.

They discussed issues related to the border crossing wait times, immigration and the drug war.

Democrat Beto O'Rourke and Republican Barbara Carrasco agreed that shortening waits at the international bridges would benefit the economy of El Paso.

Carrasco's approach is to represent El Paso in Congress to have the community's voice heard at the federal level to make others aware of the problem. "The government doesn't listen to us," she said.

Carrasco, who seemed a little nervous in the beginning

speaking in Spanish, said the workload has decreased up to 70 percent for people whose jobs rely on Mexican customers because of long waits at the bridges.

O'Rourke said a solution to resolve the economic issues of the border could be found in El Paso.

If the government is able to reduce the lines at the international ports of entry, more jobs could be created, he said.

The jobs of more than 50,000 El Pasoans depend on international trade, O'Rourke said.

He said more than $80 million in goods cross the border every year, and the people from Juarez or Mexico contribute about $2 billion annually to El Paso's economy.

Carrasco and O'Rourke believe that a solution to the problem would be to have more federal agents at the ports

of entry.

The candidates disagreed on the approach to end the illegal drug trade.

Carrasco believes that the drug war in Mexico has been a success and she would support the efforts of those who are still fighting against the drug cartels.

"This is the first time that the federales (Mexican police) are fighting the drug traffickers, and they are winning," she said.

If elected, Carrasco said, she will continue to support the Merida Initiative, a $1.5 billion U.S. aid package to help Mexico improve its police forces and judicial system.

O'Rourke disagreed with Carrasco that the drug war is a success. He said that in the past five years, about 10,000 people have been killed in Juarez because of the drug war.

"Is that a success?" O'Rourke asked Carrasco.

Illegal drugs are a social problem and not criminal problem, he said.

Although the U.S. government has spent $1 trillion in the past 40 years fighting drugs, the easiest place to find drugs like marijuana in this country is in a high school, O'Rourke said.

There needs to be another approach to the drug-trafficking, including discussions about the possible legalization of marijuana, he said.

On the immigration issue, Carrasco wants to be elected to help create comprehensive immigration reform and not go about it piece by piece, she said.

She said politicians speak about immigration only during elections, but nothing has been done about it.

Carrasco said undocumented people should not live in the shadows and be afraid of going out to the streets. She said they must be integrated into the community.

However, every time there is an initiative to reform immigration in the country, there is a division in government, she said.

Carrasco does not support the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or Dream Act, because it addresses only a very small part of the problem, she said.

She said not every youth would qualify for or pay to be part of the Dream Act. The Dream Act would afford education to undocumented students who were brought to the U.S. as children.

O'Rourke said the Dream Act legislation might not be perfect, but it would be a path to a comprehensive immigration reform. The youths who were brought to the country when they were young have the right to an education and to be part of society.

"Why, after 16 or 18 years, are we going to send them back to Mexico or El Salvador, especially now that they can contribute more to our economy, they can serve in the Army, they can go to the university and can be members of our community," he said.

The debate was sponsored by KTDO Telemundo.



Source: (c)2012 the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas). Distributed by MCT Information Services.


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