July 18, 2003

Legislation Introduced to Improve Relations with Mexico and Keep America Safer

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Working to make the country’s borders more secure and improve critical foreign relationships, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) introduced legislation last week that would help address Mexico’s rural economic crisis. The legislation passed the Senate with bipartisan support soon after it was introduced.

“What happens in Mexico is in the national security interests of the United States,” Senator Reid said in a speechon the Senate floor. “In recent months, we have focused intently on Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, Iran, Pakistan and a number of other nations scattered across the globe. But our close neighbor and critical friend to the south – Mexico – too often receives little attention. This is a country with whom we share a 2000 mile border and which has a significant impact on our national security and economic well being.”

The legislation would authorize $100 million dollars for free-market type programs to help boost the ailing Mexican economy. His legislation called for micro credit lending, small business and entrepreneurial development, aid to small farms and farmers who have been affected by the collapse of coffee prices, and support for programs that would support Mexico’s private property ownership system, which is badly in need of repair. “This legislation is as much about preventing illegal immigration as it is about offering aid to Mexico,” Reid said. “Nearly 40 million Mexicans are living in poverty, 40% of the population. Many risk their lives to illegally cross our border, and place additional strains on our border security officers who are already overextended. Those who manage to sneak past the border patrol and survive the desert, arrive here with few job skills, compete for jobs with those who are here legally and tax our social services. A stronger and economically sound Mexico will have a positive impact to the United States by reducing the strain upon our society caused by illegal immigration and the deadly flow of drugs.”

Micro credit lending programs have been enormously successful in parts of Africa and South Asia. The goals of such programs are to provide small loans to non-traditional sectors of the economy that would ordinarily not be supported by the main financial institutions of the country. Flexible repayment procedures and low interest rates are hallmarks of microcredit enterprises. The evidence of microcredit lending suggests that a small amount of money can go a long way, having ripple effects to the economy, and helping significantly in villages, rural communities, and with small women-owned businesses. In addition, Reid called for the State Department to provide greater support to small businesses and entrepreneurs, who are fleeing the Mexican countryside, many ending up in the United States illegally. “We need to find a reason for these hardworking people to remain in their communities”, Reid said. “Economic stability will help a great deal.” Reid’s amendment would jump start innovative lending and entrepreneurial development programs.

Reid also called for support to Mexican farmers that have been crushed by the collapse of the coffee market, and a strengthening of the Mexican system of private property ownership, specifically through increased attention to property recordation systems and improved access to mortgage financing – both of which are barely functioning now. Reid called for the United States ought to offer its expertise in this area, and help get the private property system back on track.

“This is not a typical aid package”, Reid said. “It is not a hand out. It is a commitment to free-market based programs that will hopefully spur long-term development and growth in the rural areas of Mexico.” “It is not only the right thing to do to support our ally, it will also have a positive impact to the United States by reducing the strain upon our society caused by illegal immigration and the deadly flow of drugs.”

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