Saying “we are all border-landers,” Alan Bersin told members of the U.S.-Mexico Border Mayors Association on Friday that the number of ports of entry between the two countries needs to more than double to 100.
Bersin—the former superintendent of San Diego Unified School District now serving as the assistant secretary of international affairs for the Department of Homeland Security—kicked off the third binational summit of the U.S.-Mexico Border Mayors Association alongside San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and Tijuana Mayor Carlos Bustamante.
Bersin spoke to a group of 22 mayors—13 from the U.S. and nine from Mexico—and said the relationships formed between the two countries will shape the “future” of the North American economy.
“We need to go from 46 ports of entries to a 100 ports of entries and we need to do that over the course of 40 years,” he told the audience at the Manchester Grand Hyatt. “What we are talking about is a North America that is able to provide a quality of life to our people in ways that are dramatic.”
Bersin—alongside Sanders, Bustamante and El Paso Mayor John Cook who previously hosted a summit—also spoke about the importance of the U.S.-Mexico Border Mayors Association.
Sanders said his relationship with Bustamante has developed over the years and the two often work together.
“I can’t remember a time when our cities worked more closely together,” said Sanders, who noted the two will take a trip to Washington, D.C., in the coming weeks to advocate for border projects.
The two also noted the importance of “one voice” when bringing forth ideas to Mexico City or Washington.
“We can lobby on both sides of the border,” Bustamante said. “There are lot of people from my country that live here and there are a lot of U.S. citizens that live in Tijuana.
“A together voice gives us more clout and credibility.”
The 22 mayors planned sessions throughout the day focused on trade, policy, immigration and tourism.
Bersin said the young association is developing a border region that’s needed in the future.
“The future is not what it was and need to build on that,” he said. “There’s a certain amount of competition that will always exist but there is more in common. The respect is mutual and we need to build on that. The challenges that are better coming will require these relationships.
“We are all border-landers,” he said. “We are all people who live and work on this border.”