Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary José Meade denounced border security measures made to the comprehensive immigration reform bill is expected to be approved by the United States Senate on Tuesday, suggesting that instead of expanding a border fence, as the bill proposes, the United States should modernize border bridges to expedite commerce. "Fences do not unite," Meade said in a written statement read before reporters. "Fences are not the solution to migration and are not consistent with a modern and secure border. They do not contribute to the competitive regional development that both countries seek to promote."
Meade's comments on the modernization of border bridges comes after the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the United States' bridges a C+ rating for 2013. Infrastructure spending, according to the New York Times, is at its lowest point in 20 years. The Society of Civil Engineers has estimated that it will cost $20 billion per year over the next decade to repair the nation's bridges.
The latest amendment to the bill calls for a $30 billion "border surge": a huge buildup of surveillance and apprehension apparatuses including an extra 20,000 Border Patrol members (double their current number), and the completion of 700 miles of double-layer fence designed to keep people from crossing illegally (there are already 651 miles of fencing along the US-Mexico border, but only 352 miles of it are of this sort). $3.2 billion will go toward surveillance and detection technology which includes new towers for spotting border crossers, thermal imaging and night vision tools, infrared sensors, boats, Blackhawk helicopters, and as many as 18 drone aircrafts equipped with VADER radar systems.
The "border surge" amendment was intended to help muster Republican support for the reform; several conservative senators who had cited border security as a concern have gotten on board since the amendment was included, but the reform faces a tougher crowd in the GOP-majority House, where the portion of the bill which grants legal status to many of the nation's 11 million undocumented is unpopular.
The bill would also further integrate the Mexican and US economies by liberalizing access to work visas. The two countries' governments have pledged to pursue a new chapter in their relations after Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto's administration drastically scaled back US intelligence agencies' access to classified information regarding the drug cartels. The neighboring countries' agencies had worked together in unprecedentedly and often controversially close ways under previous president Felipe Calderon. In early May, US President Barack Obama visited Mexico, where he and Peña Nieto agreed to change the thrust of their relationship from collaboration on the war against the drug cartels to strengthening economic links.