Border state governors declare emergency

Drug violence prompts action in N.M. and Ariz.

August 17, 2005|By Stephen Franklin and Hugh Dellios | Stephen Franklin and Hugh Dellios,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

NOGALES, Ariz. - Saying their states are reeling from growing drug trafficking and illegal migration, the governors of Arizona and New Mexico have declared states of emergency along their borders with Mexico.

Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona has freed up $1.5 million in disaster funds to assist state agencies and border counties, while New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson defended his recent decision to declare an emergency, saying states must take security into their own hands.

In response, Mexican officials have described the governors' declarations as exaggerations and called for cooperation between the two countries to calm the border area.

"My call to the U.S., whether it's to a state government or the government of President Bush, is that in place of pronouncements, we make proposals; in place of each working on his own side, we work together," Mexican President Vicente Fox said yesterday.

Government spokesmen in Washington defended efforts by the United States and Mexico to stem violence and drug trafficking. And in prepared remarks to be delivered in a speech last night in Denver, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza said immigration reform is "crucial to the national interests of both of our countries."

In making the emergency declaration on Monday, Napolitano criticized the federal government for "moving too slow" on border security. Her office said that security is a federal responsibility and that the federal government is not meeting it.

Napolitano acted just days after Richardson, a fellow Democrat, issued a similar declaration in four southern counties: Grant, Hidalgo, Luna and Dona Ana.

Richardson, the nation's only Hispanic governor, complained that the federal government has failed to stem growing smuggling-related violence and said he would spend $1.75 million on security improvements.

The money in Arizona is designated for that state's four border counties - Yuma, Pima, Santa Cruz and Cochise - and will be distributed by the Arizona Division of Emergency Management. The $1.5 million is part of $4 million set aside annually for disasters, such as fires or floods. This marks the first time Napolitano has tapped the funds for border issues.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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