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Our Opinion: State of the Valley

January 31, 2002

Much of President George W. Bush's State of the Union speech on Tuesday night focused on terrorism, and much of the terrorism portion of the speech focused on border security.

Bush said he intends to increase border security, as he well should in response to our borders being penetrated by those wishing to do harm to our people, our nation and our way of life.

Increased security, though, is a mixed bag for the Imperial Valley.

Yes, an increase in security probably means more jobs in Imperial County, since we are on the border and have three ports of entry. We are long plagued by unemployment here and the prospect of more jobs, particularly well-paying, steady federal jobs, is wonderful.

More people working at and around the border also should mean fewer illegal immigrants dying in our deserts, waterways and highways. Imperial County has had more than its fill of that sadness.

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One of the bad things is more border security means longer lines at the border. Longer lines mean people from Mexicali are less likely to come across into Calexico and El Centro to shop. Retail businesses in those two cities, and in every other Imperial Valley city to a lesser degree, are highly dependent on Mexicali shoppers. We have seen some local stores go belly up and others start to go under since the Sept. 11 attacks on this country and the subsequent tightening of border security.

There are other negatives with a bogged-down border. Our friends in Mexicali suffer because they don't get as many Yankee dollars in their tills if people don't want to deal with huge, slow-moving border lines. Many of us have family and friends in Mexicali, and we are less likely to go see those people, and they are less likely to come see us, if huge border lines loom.

On top of that, people such as executives in Mexicali are less likely to buy homes in Calexico, Holtville, El Centro and elsewhere in the Valley if they know they are going to have an arduous wait every day of their commute.

We support Bush's call for tighter border measures. Our first concern in this country during a war has to be national security.

But if Bush doesn't want to ruin the economies of every community along both of our nation's borders, he needs to fully man border crossings and make sure the workers have the best equipment and best motivation available to expedite border-crossers.

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