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BORDER UPDATES - U.S.-Mexico commission meets on border violence

MEXICO CITY — A joint U.S.-Mexico committee met for the first time Wednesday to address border management issues and border violence.

The committee was created By Presidents Barack Obama and Felipe Calderon in May.

Mexico has expressed concern about the deaths of migrants during recent incidents involving U.S. Border Patrol officers, and the two countries agreed on the need to "minimize the need for United States and Mexican federal law enforcement officers to resort to lethal force."
They also agreed on "patrolling on either side of the border ... to prevent and adequately respond to crime and violence, including incidents of rock-throwing, incursions, port runners, (and) assaults on law enforcement personnel."

U.S. authorities say they sometimes are assaulted by migrant and drug traffickers and must defend themselves.

A joint declaration by the executive steering committee noted that "recent incidents along our common border underscore the urgency with which the United States and Mexico need to take decisive actions to avoid the recurrence of such events."

It said those incidents involved loss of life, but did not say whether they involved the shooting of migrants or drug violence.

Mexico was angered in June, when a Border Patrol agent fatally shot a 15-year-old Mexican youth as officers came under a barrage of big stones while trying to detain illegal immigrants on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande.

In May, Mexican migrant Anastasio Hernandez, 32, died after a Customs and Border Protection officer shocked him with a stun gun at the San Ysidro border crossing that separates San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico. The San Diego medical examiner's office ruled that death a homicide.

And on Wednesday, a Border Patrol agent in Arizona was fatally shot near the border amid a shootout with bandits known for targeting illegal immigrants along a violent smuggling corridor in the desert.

The committee endorsed expanding coordinated patrols and "expanding existing exchanges of passenger information to detect and detain possible drug and weapons smugglers, and other criminals that travel between the U.S. and Mexico."

The statement also pledged support for various projects aimed at improving ports-of-entry and border crossings in several states, and "expand trusted traveler and shipment programs by facilitating enrollment and making them more advantageous and easy to use." It also supported the establishment of pilot projects for cargo pre-clearance in both countries.

The issue of migrants and how they are treated remains a sensitive subject in Mexico, even as their overall number of migrants moving across the border drops.

The number of Mexicans deported or repatriated by the United States dropped 23.2 percent in the first 10 months of 2010 as compared to the same period of the previous year, Mexico's Interior department reported Wednesday.

A total of 410,442 people were returned to Mexico.

Of those, 23,359 agreed to be flown to Mexico City and transported to their hometowns, rather than simply being expelled over the border. That annual program was in effect from June 1 to Sept. 28.

The mayors and governors in some Mexican border states have complained in the past about crime and unemployment problems created by the deportation of large numbers of migrants to border communities.

The number of women repatriated dropped even more steeply, by 34 percent to 44,356 in the first 10 months of 2010.

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