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Luján talks border security, screening during Latin America trip

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Sen. Ben Ray Luján said one of his plans to address human migration in the Americas is to continue the work started by a border-security bill signed by former President Donald Trump in his final days in office.

The New Mexico Democrat was part of a bipartisan team of senators who traveled to Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia and Guatemala last week. The delegation talked about the root causes of migration, COVID-19 and other matters with presidents, government officials and other leaders in the countries.

In an interview about the trip, Luján said he supports improving technology to screen vehicles traveling across the U.S. border, and perhaps eventually expanding the technology to Latin American countries.

“From a national security perspective, one of the issues that I raised with each of the four presidents … was the importance of border security,” he said. “And what I’ve been advocating is getting to 100% screening of passenger vehicles and commercial cargo containers coming into the United States. And then also for us to be screening all vehicles and cargo containers leaving the United States.”

Luján said he’s paying close attention to a law sponsored by former New Mexico Rep. Xochitl Torres Small that Trump signed in January. The law calls for the Department of Homeland Security to make a report outlining the cost and effect of using high-tech screening technology to scrutinize all vehicles and containers flowing through the border, which would mark a significant change to how many vehicles are currently examined by border officials. Luján said he’s waiting for the report to come out and hopes it will lead to increased screening.

Another key way to affect human migration is to support economic development in Latin America.

To that end, Luján said another strategy discussed on the trip is how best to promote “nearshoring,” as opposed to “offshoring,” manufacturing. Nearshoring, Luján said, is to outsource manufacturing work to nearby Latin America countries as opposed to cheaper alternatives in Asian countries. Luján said the offshoring method created supply chain problems during the pandemic.

“If you open up more economic opportunities to do business, from states like New Mexico, with other Latin American countries, it helps us create jobs back home, helps you create jobs (in Latin America), and helps you create safer areas in the Americas,” he said.

WHITE HOUSE HIGHLIGHTS ABQ: The White House on Monday issued a memo to cities across the country urging them to use their American Rescue Plan relief money on crime-prevention matters, and Albuquerque was used as an example in the memo of a city using federal relief money for those purposes.

“We know that the rise in violent crime over the last 18 months is a complex and multi-dimensional challenge for communities around the country, and that it requires a comprehensive response,” wrote White House officials Susan Rice, Gene Sperling and Julie Rodriguez. “And we know that cities and states need a strong partner in the federal government to get that done.”

They cited nine cities, including Albuquerque, Tuscon and Cincinnati, as cities that used COVID relief money to address crime, which is rising in many metropolitan areas around the country.

Albuquerque was singled out for investing “$3 million to expand a gunshot detection system, $5 million to refurbish station houses, $1 million for new cars and $450,000 to recruit more officers.”

Ryan Boetel:

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