I’ve been reading Sen. Specter’s draft border security bill (the full draft bill is here) more closely today, and it contains a few interesting provisions beyond what has been widely reported in the media to date. For example, Sec. 114 contains provisions to strengthen Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala and Belize as a second line of defense against immigration from Central and South America. From the text of the bill:
(a) TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE – The Secretary of State, in coordination with the Secretary, shall work to cooperate with the head of Foreign Affairs Canada and the appropriate officials of the Government of Mexico to establish a program —
(1) To assess the specific needs of Guatemala and Belize in maintaining the security of the international borders of such countries;
(2) to use the assessment made under paragraph (1) to determine the financial and technical support needed by Guatemala and Belize from Canada, Mexico, and the United States to meet such needs;
(3) to provide technical assistance to Guatemala and Belize to promote issuance of secure passports and travel documents by such countries; and
(4) to encourage Guatemala and Belize —
(A) to control alien smuggling and trafficking;
(B) to prevent the use and manufacture of fraudulent travel documents; and
(C) to share relevant information with Mexico, Canada, and the United States.
(b) BORDER SECURITY FOR BELIZE, GUATEMALA, AND MEXICO. — The Secretary, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall work to cooperate —
(1) with the appropriate officials of the Government of Guatemala and the Government of Belize to provide law enforcement assistance to Guatemala and Belize that specifically addresses immigration issues to increase the ability of the Government of Guatemala to dismantle human smuggling organizations and gain additional control over the international border between Guatemala and Belize; and
(2) with the appropriate officials of the Government of Belize, the Government of Guatemala, the Government of Mexico, and the governments of neighboring contiguous countries to establish a program to provide needed equipment, technical assistance, and vehicles to manage, regulate, and patrol the international borders between Mexico and Guatemala and between Mexico and Belize.
My initial reaction is that this is a sensible idea. All illegal immigrants traveling on land from Central or South America have to cross the Guatemalan-Mexican or Belize-Mexican borders, which together form a much shorter border than the US-Mexican border, with only a few major crossing points and impenetrable tropical forest covering much of its length. It’s not a slam dunk solution, but it makes sense as a relatively low cost way to create a new layer of security in the system. I would suggest adding language that relates to Mexico’s maritime borders with Guatemala and Belize, since these could quickly become new pathways if the land borders become more secure. But overall, this is a provision with strong merits, and hopefully it will not become lost in the coming legislative fray over border security.
Update (2/27): I realized after posting that this was also in the Kennedy-McCain border bill (S. 1033) introduced last year. So it’s not necessarily a new idea, but it’s still one that has received little attention.