WASHINGTON – Members of Congress who represent areas along the Mexican border will probably use information in a new study about the needs and problems of those counties,but some prefer to meet constituents first-hand,their press aides said Thursday.
The study,released Wednesday,depicts how 24 border counties – if they were treated as a state – would compare with the nation on issues including immigration,education and trade.
Natalie Luna,press secretary for Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva,D-Ariz.,said studies such as this one help the congressman and his staff let constituents know important information.
Luna said the study also helps representatives from other parts of the country better understand border areas.
“This is such a large issue for us here in the district,” she said from Grijalva's Tucson office. “It's easy to have this information readily available.”
Grijalva represents three of the four counties in the state that border Mexico: Pima,Santa Cruz and Yuma.
David Host,spokesman for Rep. Steve Pearce,R-N.M.,said he could not comment on the study because he just learned of it Wednesday.
However,he did say Pearce represents three counties along the border with Mexico and prefers to visit his constituents personally to gain feedback.
“No data or study can replace actually going to the border and talking to residents,” Host said.
Recently,Pearce toured the border area twice,once with House Majority Leader John Boehner,R-Ohio,and again with the House Homeland Security Committee. He and Boehner visited 17 border communities and met with law enforcement officials and small business owners. The counties in the study in his district are Luna,Hidalgo and Doña Ana.
Greg Cox,president of the U.S./Mexico Border Counties Coalition,which sponsored the study,said the report provides a tool for Congress to understand the realities along the border and develop legislation accordingly.
The study,compiled by The Institute for Policy and Economic Development at the University of Texas at El Paso,says the counties have 6.7 million residents,ranking 13th in population,between Virginia and Massachusetts. The counties have the third-largest Hispanic concentration,with 3.36 million people.
Aaron Hunter,press secretary for Rep. Susan Davis,D-Calif.,said that San Diego County,the only county in her district in the study,boosts many of the numbers in the study.
The county has more urban and industrial areas than other,more rural areas along the border,he said.
For example,the study says the border counties would place 27th in the percentage of adults with four-year college degrees. Without San Diego County,however,the counties would rank 51st.
Hunter said the border system is “broken,” and Davis has worked for legislation to help speed up the visa process for immigrants and provide more car lanes for people who have consented to FBI checks before crossing the border.
“Everyone is aware that immigration is something that needs to be addressed,” Hunter said.
Brittany Eck,spokeswoman for Rep. Henry Bonilla,R-Texas,said the congressman represents 11 of the counties in the study,which will provide a useful resource on issues including health,immigration and security,including human trafficking and drug smuggling.
His district spans about 800 miles of the Texas-Mexico border,from El Paso to Laredo.
“We cannot turn our backs on the border because this is something that will not go away,” Eck said.
According to the study,border counties would rank No. 1 in the number of reported federal offenses,mostly due to drug and immigration violations.
Eck said Bonilla has already met at the White House with Texas border sheriffs and other members of the state's congressional delegation.
“Having more information is definitely power,” Eck said.