SECRETARY BLINKEN: I do indeed. And I just want to start, Director, by saying that was a remarkable tour and you got to do all the hard work since I got to actually sit here and watch you. But I can’t, first of all, believe the – all the ground you covered literally and figuratively. That was an extraordinary overview of the of the work you’re doing, the work your teams are doing. It’s incredibly gratifying to hear, especially the teamwork that’s involved between different agencies – Customs and Border Patrol, DHS, the State Department, our colleagues in Mexico. So I can’t thank you enough.
And I know that all of this is an already challenging, hugely important mission. It’s compounded by the challenge of COVID-19, and so you’ve been doing remarkable work under extraordinary circumstances and know that your fellow citizens are really grateful for it.
But it’s wonderful to be here with everyone virtually. As you know, COVID-19 forced me to postpone actual travel for a little while so this is the next best thing with this week’s virtual trips to our neighbors, to Mexico and also to Canada. I’m very much looking forward to meeting with members of the Mexican and Canadian Governments. And today, I’m delighted to be taking this virtual tour of the Paso del Norte, the port of entry, the bridge connecting El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez in the Mexican state of Chihuahua.
And I really want to thank everyone who made this virtual visit possible, including Oscar Leeser, the mayor of El Paso – thank you, Mr. Mayor; John Barela, the CEO of the Borderplex Alliance, Mauricio Ibarra, Ponce de Leon Consul General of the Mexican Consulate General in El Paso; Hector Armando Cabada Alvidrez, the mayor of Cuidad Juarez – Mr. Mayor, thank you; and Eduardo Ramos-Gómez, the president coordinator of Ciudad Juarez combined chambers of commerce. To all of you: Thank you, thank you, thank you. I really appreciate the remarkable virtual hospitality.
Let me just say a few short words before we actually cross the bridge. This port of entry is a major hub of activity between our countries. Last year alone, more than 1,300,000 people crossed this bridge, and together these two cities – one American, one Mexican – comprised the fourth largest manufacturing hub in all of North America, generating 82 billion in trade every year. The state of Chihuahua alone has a greater economic impact on the United States than entire countries do.
As a result of all this economic activity, there are many social ties between the residents of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. They’re neighbors. In some ways, it’s one binational community. For years, people in El Paso have walked across the bridge for dinner in Mexico and then back home again for dessert. The border between the United States and Mexico has received a lot of attention in American politics, especially in the past few years. Many Americans are deeply concerned about border security. They’re worried about undocumented immigrations, and the flow of drugs, weapons, illicit cash.
These issues are also serious concerns for the Mexican people. They demand serious solutions, which means effective solutions. And the Biden administration is committed to delivering them.
We’re taking a new approach to regional migration. That includes working with other governments in the region, including Mexico and the countries of Central America, to address the heartbreaking reasons why people are risking their lives and safety to make it into the United States at any cost. It’s dangerous for them, and it goes against our laws.
To anyone thinking about undertaking that journey, our message is: Don’t do it. We are strictly enforcing our immigration laws and our border security measures. The border is closed to irregular migration.
President Biden is committed to reforming our immigration system and ensuring safe, orderly, and humane processing at our border. Those changes will take time. And the United States will work closely with Mexico to strengthen the rule of law, improve security, and hold wrongdoers accountable, especially at the border. We will only be able to disrupt the criminal networks that exploit our shared border if we work together. And we will, because stopping transnational crime is in both of our countries’ interests.
We have to keep our citizens safe. And crime threatens all the economic activity that our people and businesses conduct together, which is vital for countless people’s livelihoods across our countries.
I’m visiting the border today because it represents so much of what connects the United States to Mexico: trade, business ties, family ties, tourism, a shared environment, and mutual security. That’s why this relationship is so important to the United States. We value and respect our partnership with Mexico, and we depend on it every single day.
So we’ll continue to work together closely to advance our shared goals and deliver results for our people. Thank you again to everyone for making today’s visit possible.