Top U.S., Mexican officials to tackle border deaths, crimeJanuary 15, 1999
Web posted at: 12:15 a.m. EST (0515 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. and Mexican law enforcement officials are meeting on Friday to find ways to prevent border crossing deaths and to improve crime-fighting.
In San Diego, officials will discuss the soaring number of migrant deaths along the Mexican border after U.S. border-tightening moves to stem the flood of illegal crossings from Mexico into the United States.
FBI Director Louis Freeh is making his first-ever visit to Mexico City to discuss a range of thorny crime and law enforcement issues.
Cooperation on migrant safety
On the issue of border deaths, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service says 254 migrants died in unsuccessful efforts to cross safely into the United States last year.
INS says information supplied by U.S. counties along the border for fiscal year 1998 shows 84 persons drowned trying to cross into the United States and another 84 died from heat exposure.
Motor vehicle accidents and cold weather also were responsible for deaths, officials said. As many as 30 Mexicans died of unknown causes, officials said.
U.S. Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder and INS Commissioner Doris Meissner will meet in San Diego on the migrant safety issue with Mexican Deputy Attorney General Eduardo Ibarrola and Undersecretary for North America Juan Rebolledo.
The officials have scheduled a news conference Friday at 7 p.m. EDT (4 p.m. local time), where they hope to announce cooperation on migrant safety at the border.
One proposal to be discussed calls for a U.S.-sponsored education program on the dangers of illegal border crossings. The messages would be broadcast through public service announcements from radio stations on both sides of the border.
The INS says its proposals are intended to build on a border safety initiative launched last June.
A cautious relationship
Freeh's meetings in the Mexican capital with Attorney General Jorge Madrazo Cuellar and others are intended to improve the cautious growing relationship between U.S. and Mexican law-enforcement officials.
"It is essential that the United States and Mexico work together more closely against major crimes that are having an impact on both nations," Freeh said in a written statement issued upon his departure from Washington.
Freeh's upbeat statement avoided any criticism of police corruption or other Mexican law enforcement problems.
U.S. officials privately express both frustration and sympathy with Mexico's attempts to root out corruption among its anti-drug forces.
Also on the agenda is the sensitive issue of extradition and deportation of fugitives from Mexico. U.S. officials cite figures showing progress in Mexican cooperation on the issue in the past year, but dozens of U.S. fugitives remain in Mexican hands.
Working together to fight crime
Freeh's meetings Friday also are designed to focus on improving bilateral cooperation. The FBI opened a training program in November designed to "enhance mutual assistance in criminal investigations."
The FBI director said he will discuss specialized training for Mexican law enforcement in evidence collection and other technical programs. Freeh said Mexico is working with the Uunited States in fingerprint and stolen vehicle programs.
He promised to explore other information services programs in which the United States may help Mexican authorities.
Freeh plans to meet with U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Jeffrey Davidow and federal law enforcement authorities -- including his FBI agents stationed in Mexico City -- before returning home late Friday.
CNN's Justice Department Producer Terry Frieden contributed to this report
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