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SANTA FE — Governors of the states lining both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border signed a joint statement at the Border Governors Conference saying they “recognize the need for comprehensive immigration reform” in the United States and for a deportation process “based on the fundamental premise of respecting the human dignity and human rights of individuals being repatriated.”
“These are not just words, but a program of action,” said U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual of the joint agreement. “This is a forum for action because of the leadership that is here today.”
The governors gathered at the Eldorado Hotel for the 28th annual Border Governors Conference.
Immigration, arms trafficking and border violence were some of the tough issues they tackled as well as energy and economic development.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado co-hosted the event, which was originally set for Phoenix and was nearly cancelled.
All six Mexican border governors wrote Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and said that they intended to boycott this year’s conference after she advocated the Arizona state law giving local police broader authority to question immigration status during traffic stops.
Brewer answered in a letter canceling the entire conference.
Richardson stepped up and arranged to host the conference in Santa Fe.
Governors or their representatives from the states of Baja California, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Sonora and Tamaulipas attended the event, which began Sunday night with a reception and a private dinner.
The conference officially took place all day Monday.
“We’re not here to criticize the governor of Arizona – we’re here for something positive,” Richardson said when asked about Brewer by a reporter at the press conference.
Richardson said he hoped that immigration reform would become a major priority for the new Congress.
“One of the major priorities of the next congress should be major immigration reform,” he said. “But it’s not realistic to think the current Congress can pass legislation before the general election. I am hopeful early next year a comprehensive immigration bill will be passed.”
Richardson’s final term as governor ends Dec. 31. He told reporters that he urges his successor “to be very active in the Border Governors group.”
Besides Brewer, Texas Gov. Rick Perry did not attend the conference. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was expected to co-host, became ill and stayed home.