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Rep. Beto O'Rourke: Economic Aid For Juárez Imperative For United States

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Rep. Beto O'Rourke (Rep. Beto O'Rourke)

Rep. Beto O'Rourke, a Democrat representing the 16th District of Texas, says the border economy in the United States would benefit by giving economic assistance to the city of Juárez, in the Mexican state of Chihuahua.

During a conversation with Fronteras reporter Lorne Matalon, O'Rourke said something that is rather unusual for a Congressional representative: He said the U.S. should grant economic aid for a city that is not within the United States.

O'Rourke said that the intertwined economies of El Paso, eastern New Mexico and Juárez would all grow, possibly exponentially if economic assistance to Juárez was extended. He has made a number of visits in recent days to Juárez to highlight his belief that the city is far safer than it has been since the height of the Mexican drug war-related violence in 2010.

He did not discount legitimate concerns about violence there, but said the reduction in bloodshed is so profound in 2014 that it clouds the judgment of policy makers when they discuss border security while simultaneously ignoring the economic potential that a more peaceful Juárez represents.

O'Rourke also reiterated his call to start a discussion on the legalization of marijuana, citing what he believes is the cost of a failed war on drugs waged by the United States since it was formally launched during the presidency of Richard Nixon.

In a discussion focused on border security, the potential for a bolstered regional economy and immigration, O'Rourke lamented the lack of meaningful immigration reform and said reform would come but only in fits-and-starts given the political gridlock in the U.S. Congress.

Last year, O'Rourke and Republican Rep. Steve Pearce of New Mexico crafted a bipartisan bill on immigration. O'Rourke calls it an example of how small steps can lead to meaningful reform.

The pair sponsored the American Families United Act, a bill that would allow discretion in a very few immigration cases for Americans separated from their families due to minor, non-violent violations.

He cited the case of American Edgar Falcon, who married his Mexican wife at the border because she was banned from entering the U.S.

As a 16-year-old, her older sister lied to U.S. agents when trying to enter the country.

Until 1996, these kinds of cases were reviewed by an immigration judge. That year a law took effect that imposed lifetime bans to entry against anyone who lied about their immigration status from crossing into the U.S.

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