WASHINGTON – A group of 21 Mexican-American leaders is taking a new approach to issues facing the United States and Mexico.
The Mexican American Leadership Initiative,under the U.S.-Mexico Foundation,is made up of U.S.-born Mexican-American attorneys,business owners and others from across the United States who share a common interest in setting up significant engagement between the U.S. and Mexico.
“One thing that is different about this initiative is that it is mainly led by Mexican Americans born in the United States,” David Ayón, MALI co-founder,said.
The first MALI conference kicked off Monday with remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the State Department. Clinton’s involvement with Mexican-American relations dates to 1972 when she was in Texas registering Latino voters.
“It’s a shared responsibility for a shared challenge. We have to help the Mexican government and the Mexican people find security and justice,” Clinton said.
MALI gave $5,000 to $10,000 grants to three Mexican-based nonprofit organizations that focus on at-risk youth and local development.
CASA Promocion Juvenil,one of the award winners,creates four-week summer camps for children ages 12 to 14 in Ciudad Juarez,just across the Rio Grande River from El Paso,Texas.
The initiative plans to recognize and work with more organizations that are strengthening Mexican society and expand its partnerships with American corporations that do business in Mexico.
“There hasn’t been a major society-based effort before,” Ayón said.
Mexico is the United States’ second-biggest trading partner,after Canada,but illegal immigration and drug trafficking have been the cause of friction between the two countries.
What is happening in Mexico is perceived to be Mexico’s problem not something we have any business in,” Ayón said. “So this really is a shared challenege that requires national attention.”
About 95 percent of the estimated cocaine flow toward the United States transits through Mexico,according to the State Department’s March Narcotic Strategy Report. The number of murders in the Mexican city has skyrocketed in recent years.
Children in Juarez are often caught up in the city’s violent drug trade and are dropping out of secondary school at alarming rates.
“What we are about is constructive and creative responses to the situation in Mexico,” Ayón said.
Reach reporter Maria S. Williams at [email protected] or 202-326-9871
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