By Jonathon Shacat
Wick News Service
Published/Last Modified on Wednesday, December 19, 2012 12:15 PM MST

BISBEE �” Mayors from the region gathered earlier this month for a second time to discuss issues of importance along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The idea for these meetings was sparked by Benjamin Mostyn in October when he was running for Cochise County Sheriff.

“Border Patrol Agent Nicholas Ivie got shot a couple of weeks into my campaign. After that, some of our folks shot Mexican civilians and I was seeing an escalation in violence. And, I had intelligence that the cartels were going to try to take advantage of the fact that Sheriff Larry Dever was gone,” he said.

Mostyn wanted to make sure there were proper deterrents from things like this happening. He knew the cartels have way more money and power, and that if this were to escalate, a lot more people would be killed.

“Understand, for us to be secure there has to be a strong security apparatus in Mexico. If not, that spills across our border in the form of violence, illegal migration, and trafficking of all types. This is how my concept and a development of regional security started forming in my mind and I was compelled to act immediately,” he added.

So, Mostyn travelled to Naco, Sonora, Mexico, and met with the mayor there to see what he could do to help them. He was told that Mexican officials want more Americans to know that it is safe to go to Mexico and would agree to ensure the safety of any visiting Americans, and that “We will make sure that the police are everywhere and no one will harass them. They will be safe.”

Mostyn subsequently met with Oscar Antonio De la Torre Amezcua, the Mexican Consul in Douglas, to talk about his vision regarding ways to improve security and economics on the border.

“Communication at the local level ceased five years ago and this was an opportunity to rekindle that relationship. The consul and I had the same vision; a local approach to border security would be faster and more effective than the ‘top down approach.’ If we are willing to communicate with them, they will be willing and able to help us. This improves our local status and eases the relationship at the national level,” Mostyn said.

“Border security can only be achieved collectively and this begins with communication,” he continued. “A personal relationship with our Mexican counterparts gives borrowing rights and capabilities that we do not have access to. But, the underbelly of this is the economic state of our border region. Regional security is attained through communication and partnership that is strengthened by healthy economies and trade.”

Then, Mostyn and Amezcua went to Agua Prieta, Sonora, and continued this conversation with the mayor there regarding economics and security. The trip was made to discuss the meetings that had transpired to date and to bring them on board.

“Like Naco’s meeting, I needed to know what they needed in order to be successful. Again, this was a two-pronged approach building on the concept that a good economy there would keep people in Mexico rather than illegally migrating or joining a cartel to support their family. If I could learn how to help them, I can recruit them to help me in securing the border on their side at a local level,” said Mostyn.

“They needed a few things: Good press so that Arizonans would go there to shop and eat, see medical specialists, and a program to assist with repatriation. Their crime and homeless levels increase each time migrants are returned because they are not taken back to where they are from, but rather ‘dumped off’ in the nearest or designated border town, such as Agua Prieta,” he added.

“This puts an added strain on their economy which is already suffering because they have to feed, shelter, and provide medical attention to the repatriated. This, in turn, affects us because the conditions provide motivation for migrants and trafficking. This is how security and economics tie together. It was agreed that we needed to get everyone on board from both sides and we needed to plan border events that encourages crossings, generates money, and friendly relations between our respective citizens,” he continued.

Amezcua stated, “Mostyn was a politician who understood the need to do more for security to be able to give the economic resources necessary for the development of the cities. From my point of view, other politicians only focus on security, without an integral economic development plan.”

On Oct. 29, the first Mayors Summit was held in Agua Prieta with mayors and city officials representing Agua Prieta, Naco, Cananea, Bisbee, and Douglas. A highlight of the meeting was discussion on ideas to help promote tourism.

“I started the meeting by sharing the border concept in the works; that we all needed to work together to achieve security on both sides of the border. This would mean communication and interoperability between the leadership and local heads of security. Next is recognizing and subsequently capitalizing on cultural commonalities to relax the ‘racial divide’ through multiculturalism via cross-border activities which rolls into tourism,” Mostyn said.

“Their concern is SB1070 and the fact that Mexicans don’t want to go into Arizona because they are afraid; on the other side of the coin Americans don’t want to Mexico because they too are afraid. So how can we ease those tensions so that both sides benefit? This rolls back into security and will cycle back to economics,” he said. “As I said at the meeting, ‘Security is the umbrella by which all things are made possible. Without security, economics is not possible; without economic opportunities, security becomes elusive.’”

The Mexican mayors talked about the highway they are getting funding for that will run from Cananea to the border. Essentially people deeper in Mexico would have an easier time getting to Arizona. Mostyn told them that everybody needed to come together, all mayors and leadership on both sides and pressure the government to speed up the expansion of the Ports of Entry. They can build the highway, but if people are going to be sitting at the border for five hours waiting to get through, they aren’t going to bother making the trip.

Mostyn was not successful in his bid for Cochise County Sheriff in the election in November. But his intentions to improve relations between the border communities were deemed worthwhile and the Mexican Consulate in Douglas continued to embrace them and endorse them.

The second mayoral summit was held on Dec. 7 in Douglas. Participants included Sonora mayors from Agua Prieta, Arizpe, Bacoachi, Cananea, Fronteras, Naco and Nacozari, and Arizona mayors from Bisbee, Douglas, Sierra Vista and Tombstone.

There were also officials with the Sonora Employment Office, Sonora Ministry of Economy Commercial Operation Office, the Mexican Consulate in Douglas, and Cochise County Board of Supervisors member Ann English, as well as a business advocates from Tucson’s Office of the Mayor.

According to Amezcua, the meeting on Dec. 7 focused on integral regional development on both sides of the border. He said Mexican and American border cities have the same problems and they are interdependent for economic viability.

The Mexican government and Sonora are investing millions of dollars into the border region. They have discovered/are reviving the mining industry. They will be subsidizing employment and plan to improve the infrastructure in the border towns/region of Sonora. They are expecting a boom and the creation of thousands of jobs, according to Mostyn.

Each Mexican mayor discussed what was happening in their town and the economic possibilities/goals, he said. Both sides want to get the Port of Entry expanded; there is talk that it may be cheaper to make a second Port rather than expanding the existing one. Cochise wants to get better access so that people will shop at the mall; Tucson wants them to go to their malls. There was talk about the amount of money that Mexico spends in southern Arizona (billions).

Mostyn said one official suggested that this group of several mayors could get the attention of state and federal legislators to find funding for these types of programs, and also mentioned expanding/improving rail for the shipment of goods across the border. As a short-term to mid-term solution until the port of entry is better developed, Mostyn suggested the rail system could include passenger cars so people could cross the border with ease.

A third mayoral summit is currently scheduled for Jan. 25 in Bisbee. Mostyn hopes the next meeting will focus on how to improve security in the border region.

Douglas, Arizona : News : Regional border mayors hold second of three planned meetings : Douglas Dispatch, Arizona