Washington, D.C. -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke at the 13th Annual U.S.-Mexico Border Issues Conference this afternoon. Below are the Speaker's remarks:
“Thank you very much, Chairman Reyes, for your invitation to be here today, for your kind introduction, and for your great leadership. Our representative from El Paso has consistently worked to draw attention to challenges and opportunities facing United States of America and Mexico, especially at our borders.
“I also like to acknowledge Al Zapanta, who has been a wonderful friend. Al, thank you so much for your hospitality once again and for your leadership as President and CEO of the U.S.-Mexico Chamber of Commerce - for your leadership in creating opportunities for legislatures, advocates, and businesses - to discuss how we can strengthen the relationship between our two countries.
“I'd also like to acknowledge the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. They have been the lead in so many issues, including this relationship between U.S. and Mexico. We're such close neighbors, our fates are tied in many ways, our challenges are significant, and the relationship between our two countries is the issues of the highest priority to this Congress.
“In the omnibus appropriations bill that was signed by the President last week, we included $300 million for the Merida initiative in Mexico. We are committed to its success and that is just one of the installments that we will be making to support this initiative.
“In that regard, I have asked the chairmen of three important committees - Chairman Reyes, chair of the Intelligence Committee as you all know, Chairman Skelton, chair of the Armed Services Committee, and Chairman Berman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee - to take an official delegation to Mexico to discuss how our nations can work together to address the fundamental challenges posed by narcotics and gun trafficking issues. We're very concerned with the fact that so many guns in the United States are going in to Mexico.
“We salute the courage of President Calderon and we're thrilled with the announcement that President Obama and Secretary Clinton will soon be traveling to Mexico to show American support for our ally in the fight against drug-related violence.
“As House Democratic Leader, and as Speaker, I have had the opportunity to visit many of our border communities in Texas, including El Paso, Laredo and McAllen. I can see the sense of community that does not stop at the border. What happens on one side of the border effects the other side - we share a common goal of helping our people.
“It is with the shared values in mind that I was proud to meet with President Calderon in January. It was a very important visit for us in the Congress. We discuss the challenges our nation faced, we acknowledged the shared past, present and future of the United States of America and Mexico.
“The partnership between our countries is so essential to strengthen the security on both sides of the border. We know that the violence in Mexico is tearing apart communities and threatens to do the same in the United States. President Calderon has taken significant steps to curb violence. The U.S. and their allies must work with the Calderon government to strategically target resources to help control the violence associated with the narcotics and gun trafficking.
“Also of great importance to the border communities is of course the issue of immigration. And by that I mean we need comprehension immigration reform. For the first time in a long time, the opportunity exists to enact comprehensive legislation. President Obama has made this a priority for his Administration. I know that yesterday he met with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to reiterate his commitment to immigration reform.
“The CHC, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, has long taught the House Democratic Caucus and indeed the entire Congress what comprehensive immigration reform would look like. It would of course, secure our border, it would protect our workers, it would prohibit the exploitation of workers coming into our country and it would unite our families. Family unification is an important principle of our immigration and always has been.
“About a week and a half ago, Congressman Gutierrez was in San Francisco on a Saturday night. We were packed and jammed in St. Anthony's Church, hundreds and hundreds of people came. We heard from families who have had raids into their homes and into their families where families were separated. And at the time, I said it there and I'll say it here, that raids that break up families in that way, just kick in the door in the middle of the night, taking father, a parent away, that's just not the American way. It must stop. It's just not the American way. So we need this comprehensive reform, and we need it soon. And we need to stop those kinds of ICE raids in the meantime.
“I was told when I went to Laredo that every year on George Washington's birthday, the mayors of Laredo and Nuevo on the other side of the border. They bring two children from each country to meet on the international bridge to embrace. This is known as the ‘abrazo' or ‘the hug' in Spanish, as you all know. The annual event symbolizes goodwill and the appreciation for United States and Mexico have for each other.
“This 13th annual U.S.-Mexico Border Issues Conference is another such event. Every person who comes here and certainly for the Hispanic community, when they come here they make America more American. So thank you for all that you do to secure our border and to improve our relationship and the security of our two countries, U.S. and Mexico.
“Thank you all very much.”