By JONATHAN J. COOPER
Cronkite News Service
NOGALES (Wednesday, March 25) _ Cristina Vasquez moved across the border to protect her children from rising violence in Mexico. She didn’t anticipate that the fighting would follow her to Arizona.
Her four children, who range in age from 4 to 11, are frightened to hear that violence among rival Mexican drug cartels is an increasing problem in the U.S.
“The kids need tranquility; they don’t need to hear about violence,” she said in Spanish. “The kids don’t need to hear about drugs. The kids need to be kids.”
That’s why Vasquez was excited about a federal plan announced this week committing $700 million to fight border violence.
“We hope the plan will work out for the sake of the city and our kids,” Vasquez said.
The plan, announced by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, former governor of Arizona, calls for nearly 500 additional federal agents to be deployed along the border.
Nogales Police Chief William Ybarra, shown in his office on Wednesday, March 25, 2009, said he supports a federal plan to bolster border security. He said he hopes money provided to local governments won’t have as many strings as previous federal programs aimed at beefing up border-area security.
(Cronkite News Service Photo/Jonathan Cooper)
The agents will try to block drugs and violence from coming north while slowing the flow of guns and money that head south and fuel the fighting. Authorities plan to install new X-ray equipment to scan vehicles for contraband as they cross the border.
The plan also promises more coordination between Mexico and the United States.
An estimated $30 million is expected to go to local and state police agencies on the border. William Ybarra, the police chief in Nogales, said he is eager to get some of that.
“I’m glad it’s finally caught the eye of the federal government, and that the Mexican government has finally recognized the fact that they do have an internal problem with the cartels,” he said.
He also is happy to see the U.S. and Mexican governments working together to address the issue.
“Without the cooperation of both governments we’re going to continue to have the problem,” he said.
Ybarra said he hopes the new money doesn’t come with as many strings as other federal assistance he’s received. One recent grant, for example, was almost entirely limited to covering overtime for officers but included little money to equip police for off-road driving, which he really needs.
Jesus Villa, a Nogales resident, said he wants to see President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon working together.
“If the United States puts forth more effort and Mexico does nothing, it serves no purpose,” Villa said in Spanish.
Lourdes Rodriguez, who lives across the border in Nogales, Sonora, said in Spanish that she hopes the federal plan will stimulate the local economy and bring more safety to her community.
“There would be more people offering jobs, and there would be more vigilance to stop people from doing illegal things,” she said.