May 29, 2009

Bersin talks of “tough love”

By Mariana Martinez

For the second time in his first five weeks in office, the so called “Border Czar,” Alan Bersin, visited San Diego to talk about Baja California violence and the imperative need for more collaboration and cooperation between both countries.

“I have a tough-love for our neighbors. I believe it is imperative for border residents to take control of their own circumstances and for us to solve our problems together; like water usage and the problem of cell phones not working the minute you cross the border” he said.

Bersin was invited to speak by the City Club, LEAD San Diego, San Diego County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, USD’s Tran-Border Institute and the Institute of the Americas.

Bersin told the audience he rejects the notion that the violence is “spilling over” to California, and said he is open to expanding border programs like Sentri and creating private-public partnerships to create toll ports of entry.

He talked about his full support for president Calderon’s efforts against organized crime and emphasized the historic co-responsibility approach shown by President Obama, regarding drug consumption and gun traffic.

Using the term “inter-mystic,” Bersin said the constant flow of goods, services and people in the border region has created an eminent need to expand public policy actions to include priorities experienced by the neighboring country.

His proposal includes a stronger tie amongst local authorities.

Senator Diane Feinstein, who sits on the committee against drug trafficking, welcomes that notion and adds, there are many things the US can do to detract organized crime.

Feinstein said it is shameful that US prison inmates, -many of them gang members-, are the ones to order hits and continue perpetrating crimes.

“Its very hard for me to understand how we can run a prison [system] and have people order hits and not stop that, the time has come to create a binational task force.”

In the question and answer session, Bersin was asked about the closure of Friendship Park, one that has deeply disturbed the Hispanic community in the region.

“Federal authorities and activists are currently holding meetings and I can tell you they are in good faith…despite the fact they might not reach an agreement, at least there is an openness to dialog, something that was not there 10 years ago,” he answered before ending the meeting.

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