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AG uses border visit to focus on crime

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New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, center, listens to Sunland Park Police Chief Javier Guerra during a tour of the border Monday. Balderas visited the region to strengthen partnership with local law enforcement and Mexican authorities fighting international crime. (Angela Kocherga/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

SUNLAND PARK – Attorney General Hector Balderas on Monday toured the border, and met with local and Mexican law enforcement officials about joint efforts to fight international crime.

“We need to target violent criminals. We need to not politicize the immigration debate,” said Balderas, standing at the border fence with the police chief of Sunland Park looking into Mexico.

Balderas said he’s concerned the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy that prosecuted anyone who crossed the border illegally was using resources needed to target drug cartels.

“We’re chasing misdemeanors as opposed to attacking cartels and some of the most horrific violent criminals. I’m worried that’s going to fall on the backs of local prosecutors, state prosecutors,” Balderas said.

New Mexico’s attorney general toured the border fence dividing Sunland Park and the Mexican subdivision Anapra located on the outskirts of Ciudad Juárez, which had 179 murders in the month of June.

Sunland Park Police Chief Javier Guerra credited a close working relationship with Border Patrol for helping keep his city safe.

“The city of Sunland Park is one of the fastest growing cities in the state of New Mexico and also one of the safest cities in the state of New Mexico,” Sunland Park Mayor Javier Perea said as the tour began.

Balderas also met with the Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office about combating cross-border crime with information sharing in the areas of gun violence and illegal weapon activity, as well as auto theft, which has “a huge impact in New Mexico and specifically Albuquerque,” according to Balderas.

The attorney general said New Mexico has a good working relationship with Mexican law enforcement that includes extraditing New Mexicans who commit violent crimes and try to evade the law by making a run for the border.

Balderas said the purpose of his visit was both to strengthen partnerships with law enforcement on both sides of the border and highlight the impact of the zero-tolerance crackdown that separated families on the safety of border communities.

“You should not be terrorizing children. There’s a way to target crime and that’s to go after violent criminals,” Balderas said.

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