This weekend, Ensenada, Baja California will host the twenty-ninth Border Governors Conference, an annual event in which the governors of the four U.S. and six Mexican states that make up the international border are invited to convene and discuss issues facing the unique region. Specific topics set to be discussed this weekend include promoting the region’s competitiveness in the world market, improving the quality of life of border residents, ensuring environmental sustainability and border security. Unfortunately, for the second year in a row, the only U.S. governor set to participate in this important binational event is the governor of New Mexico.
The Border Governors Conference is organized as an intimate event attended by little over one hundred people, where the region’s leaders have an opportunity for small scale, substantive discussions. First held in 1980, the event gained some national publicity last year when the governors of the six Mexican states refused to attend the conference in Phoenix, in protest of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s support of the controversial immigration bill SB 1070. When New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson held an alternative conference in Santa Fe, Brewer likewise refused to attend.
Although Brewer had originally planned to attend the Ensenada conference this year, she announced on Wednesday that she would instead be staying in Phoenix to deal with pressing matters in her state. Although she somewhat cryptically stated that she needed to meet with Director of Arizona Child Protective Services this weekend, some are wondering if there may not be some unspoken reason why she would once again choose to miss this conference.
Given the amount of attention Brewer has paid to border security and immigration, it is difficult to imagine that she would have more pressing concerns than this event. Throughout her tenure as Governor, Brewer has repeatedly expressed frustration that the U.S. federal government has not done more to secure her state’s border with Mexico. Therefore it is understandably strange to some that she would not take this opportunity to legitimately deal with her concerns at the state level.
As problems continue to mount at the border including poverty, human trafficking, drug trafficking, gang violence, and the decline of industry, it is ever more apparent that neither U.S. nor Mexican officials can deal with these problems in a unilateral fashion. In short, it may be time to renew for the 21st Century the binational “Declaration of Friendship” that was first established at the 1980 conference.